Benefits of Financial Literacy for Students

According to a 2018 National Financial Capability Study that gathered data on financial stress and anxiety adults feel in the U.S., respondents ages 18-34 reported the highest levels of stress and anxiety.1 This statistic shows the importance of financial literacy for youth in the U.S. Young adults have to deal with the transition from being financially dependent, to being financially independent. There are tremendous benefits of financial literacy and skills can be talked about in schools to prepare students for their future. Discussing topics such as payment methods, savings, growing a business, and career paths can prepare students for the real world and allow them to become stronger financial thinkers.

3 Financial Literacy Activities to Get Middle School Students Thinking and Talking About Finances

The following middle school financial literacy activities/projects are examples of some fun ways educators can get conversations going in the classroom about financial literacy topics!

1. Build Savings- Buying a New Car

Teachers can put students into groups and give the students a scenario that they had just graduated from college. With a certain monthly paycheck they are receiving for their first job, students are asked to create a budget for their monthly expenses, but also need to put money aside to buy a new car (teacher can set the price) within the next two years. Have students use a budgeting app on an ipad or create a chart that shows how their money will be spent or saved every month to reach their goal to buy a new car. Students can share their budgeting plan with the class and compare how lifestyles may be different based on those plans.

Reflection Questions for Discussion Could Be:

  • Which group could buy their car the fastest?
  • How was their lifestyle different from a group that waited a little longer to buy their new car?
  • What expenses did you think about first when you were creating your budgeting plan?

2. Growing a Business- Calculating Profit/Loss

To prepare students for their careers, it is important for them to learn a variety of different skills. Students can benefit from learning attributes to being a successful business owner, as entrepreneurship is taking off in the 21st Century. Teachers can put students into groups and the students can be encouraged to think of a small business that would be successful in today’s world (ex. selling clothing, selling jewelry, owning a small gym). Teachers could tell students they cannot exceed a certain amount of monetary loss before Day 1 of their business opening (ex. $1000). Students will have to brainstorm together how much money they would need to put into their business without exceeding the $1000, but also will have to think about how much revenue they would need to make a profit in the first month.

Other concrete requirements could include: 

  • Establishing at least two different ways to market their small business
  • Researching competitor companies and how they can differentiate themselves 
  • Model of an excel spreadsheet to organize expenses

The project could span over a few weeks to complete and groups could share their business plan with the class.

3. Career Path Exploration- Taking a Glimpse Into The Future

A great way to spark students’ interests is to bring in activities in the classroom that pushes them to think about their future. This could be an independent project where students are asked to start thinking about what they would like to do as a career and steps they will need to take to buy their first home. Students can take time researching these topics during the school day and at home.

Students can create a blueprint of the following:

  1. Where they would like to live
  2. A career path they could see themselves pursuing
  3. A list of important steps to take as you prepare to buy your first home

This project can be handed into the teacher for grading or be a project that is presented to the class. It’s a simple project that can get students building their financial literacy skills!

Free Middle School Financial Literacy Resources

FutureSmart is a supplemental curriculum that provides free financial literacy resources for students in grades 6-8 and empowers them to effectively manage their finances, make sound decisions, and become financially responsible. In the FutureSmart lesson “Smart Shopping”, students are introduced to a character named David, a middle school student that wants to redecorate his room on a limited budget. Students must prioritize David’s budget, use comparison-shopping methods to decide which specific items to buy, research upcoming spending decisions, and make smart choices about when to spend or save. Also, in the lesson “Growing a Business” students help a character named Mia, a business owner, calculate her monthly profit and loss, and devise a strategy to save up for new capital for her business. Students must help the business owner open savings and checking accounts, grow her money faster with a certificate of deposit, and make monthly transaction decisions.

Through FutureSmart’s story-based narrative and interactive financial literacy exercises, students learn to make real-world decisions about their personal finances, as well as how to achieve important goals around saving money, education, career planning, and budgeting!

Begin Discussing Financial Literacy Topics With Your Students

1https://www.usfinancialcapability.org/downloads/NFCS_2018_Report_Natl_Findings.pdf