As Kara Robinson’s economics students near financial independence as seniors, the Oak Grove High School educator found that her students were in need of a crash course in personal finance. Throughout her six years of teaching, Kara determined that the two most important personal finance concepts for her students to master were learning to save their money and build their credit.
Kara fell in love with teaching government and economics after her first year at Oak Grove High School, and for six years she has continued to tweak her class and emphasize lessons in personal finance. One of the first changes she made was to incorporate more digital financial literacy resources in her course. Kara won a grant to provide every student a laptop to use in her class, allowing them to have access to interactive online resources that help them better understand personal finance.
Students participate in a hands-on activity in Kara’s Economics course.
One resource Kara uses is playspent.org, a tool that allows students to gain perspective on what it takes to survive a month on a budget with limited income. The program assigns each student a different level of income they’ll need to last 30 days. This helps students realize the challenges lower income families face; students end up having to try multiple times to make it through the month on their limited income. The tool teaches students to save for different life events, taking into account their financial background. Kara explains that it’s “hard for them to imagine life in the future with a different income and financial life, so playing these games helps them learn about the importance of budgeting for their unique financial situation. The activity helps them realize how important it is to manage money wisely.”
Kara teaches credit not only because students want to better understand credit, but also because she knows how important it is to start building credit early. She helps her students learn to make smart decisions when choosing a credit card and to always pay the full amount to avoid debt. Kara makes sure to help her students understand that while the responsibility of credit can be daunting, they are necessary in order to build personal credit for purchases in the future like a house or car.
Another lesson that significantly impacts her students, according to Kara, is saving. To introduce the lesson, Kara shows the ESPN Films 30 for 30 series, featuring profiles of people who have made millions and lost millions. She has her students calculate how much their daily coffee or fast food snacks add up to in the long run. The large final sum ends up surprising them. The activity helps them realize the difference between wants and needs, forcing them to reconsider their spending.
Kara invited a local banker to speak to her classes about saving and credit.
Taking the lesson one step further, Kara has students use a compounding calculator to see how their savings could grow if they saved a little every day. The combination of seeing the amount they waste on daily snack foods and the amount they could make from saving a little every day helps them realize how important saving is and how much it could help them in the future.
Ultimately, Kara wants to help her seniors learn how to make wise financial decisions in order to thrive when they graduate. She believes financial literacy can be improved across the country by introducing students to financial concepts early on in life. When parents master their finances and share that information with their kids, it makes a difference on how they come to approach money.
Practical Money Skills would like to commend Kara Robinson on her ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy at Oak Grove High School.