Financial literacy a key to readying high school students for life – Frederick News Post

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A $2 Slurpee once cost John Yoho $35. 

A young man not much older than the students he now teaches, Yoho found out the difficulties of personal finance the hard way: by making mistakes.

“A lot of it was by trial and error,” Yoho said. “You don’t know what over drafting your bank account is until you go buy a $2 Slurpee and find out you don’t have the money in your checking account. 

“And then you’re getting charged outrageous fees for not having any money.”

Now, Yoho stands in his classroom for much of the day talking with his students and helping them with projects on the importance of personal finance. This semester he’s teaching a Microsoft Certification class and a Management and Entrepreneurship class that each focus heavily on financial literacy. 

Yoho also runs the school’s Millionaire’s Club, which was the first program in Frederick County. Students in that program learn about financial success through several competitions, including a stock market simulation that has students develop a stock portfolio using an initial investment of $100,000.

Financial literacy has been a part of the curriculum since Yoho joined FCPS five years ago, but, when he was a student at Linganore, he doesn’t remember financial literacy being something he was taught much about.

“I wouldn’t say it’s my personal mission in teaching,” Yoho said. “But it’s something that’s hugely important. I think it’s super relevant to every student. My hope is that they will be more prepared than I was when they leave high school.”

Maryland high schools received a “B” grade for teaching personal finance in a nationwide report card on state efforts to improve financial literacy in high schools.

Along with Maryland, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Texas, North Dakota and Ohio earned a “B” grade. Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia earned an “A” grade, and Utah was the only state to receive an “A+.”

The “B” grade is based on whether courses allocated more than, equal to, or less than one quarter of the course to personal finance, said John Pelletier, director of the Champlain College center.

Maryland requires students in elementary, middle and high school to take courses that include personal finance. Hours of instruction cannot be determined since each school district decides how it will meet the requirement.

“We are pleased with incremental improvements in many states, and Maryland is part of the good news,” Pelletier said. “But states with “C” or lower grades have to do better. High school graduates are about to step into the world of work, military service or college, and they need to have the financial skills to navigate a complex world. We hope this report card will spur even more improvement across the country.”

Yoho echoes that sentiment. In his Microsoft Certification class, representatives from Nymeo Federal Credit Union visited the class to present budget exercises to the students. On Friday, students received a fictional life scenario that included a career with a salary, a living situation, a car, a marital status and the average student loan debt for a person in their career. 

Students then use Microsoft Excel to create a budget to afford their expenses. 

Yoho’s management and entrepreneurship class began their first financial literacy exercises on Friday afternoon, when they were given a life scenario pamphlet and had to manage a budget based on the paycheck that they receive.

“The one thing that’s always surprising to me is how many kids think if they work 10 hours at $15 an hour, their paycheck is going to be $150,” Yoho said.

As the exercise went on, students were forced to pay for certain expenses using their credit card, which can elicit high debt that can be difficult to pay off. 

“If I only have $400, why would I be paying $80 to go to a concert?” Kealy Murphy asked, criticizing one of the steps in the project that required her to go into credit card debt. 

For Yoho, he has experienced that most students are drawn to the financial literacy aspect of his classes. The kids respond to the high level of engagement, and often realize the importance of it, he said. 

That’s one of the reasons he thought starting the Millionaire’s Club at the school would be a good idea. Students were interested, and he wanted to provide them another avenue to explore financial literacy more in depth.

Brenden Johnson, a senior at Brunswick, is one of the members of the club, and has had Yoho each year since he entered high school. Johnson is the school’s first student to earn the business completer certificate since Yoho joined the school. 

Johnson was attracted to the Millionaire’s Club, because he plans to study business at Wilson College next year, and one day wants to own his own business. The allure of learning about the stock market appealed to him. 

“I learned pretty quick, just how much money you can lose in the stock market,” Johnson said of the stock simulations the club has done.

The club has about 20 students on the roster, but most days the club meets about half will show and the other half go to other clubs, Yoho said. 

Johnson said he hopes the club continues to build a strong foundation so the financial literacy knowledge can trickle down to younger students. 

“This is something we have to continue to stress,” Yoho added. “Because within five years all of these students, regardless of dynamics, will have to have a job, a place to live and things to pay for. It’s a huge life skill that everyone should have coming out of high school.”

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