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Learning the Language of Money

"I believe I can understand the language of money."

"I believe I don't have to be buried in debt."

These affirmation statements were made by freshman students in our Personal Finance course. "This class is teaching me about saving and making good choices with money," says freshman Jazmen Downs. "I am learning a lot!"

All Providence Cristo Rey freshman must take this course. Students gain basic personal finance knowledge, such as how credit cards work, how to budget, investing for retirement, and paying for college.

Patti Hammerle, Providence Cristo Rey's Business and Technology teacher, created her class curriculum with lessons and video from Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Personal Finance: High School Edition and resources from Next Gen Personal Finance. Both programs were created with high schoolers in mind.

Each student participates in a semester-long financial simulation, Show Me The Money!

Students receive "income" every other week, with the amount increasing or decreasing depending on their class grade. Each "paycheck" gets 30% taken out for taxes to increase the reality of the simulation.

Paychecks are spent on various daily class "expenses," such as renting your desk space. It costs $25 to use a hall pass, and a tardy fine will set you back $50.

At the end of each pay period, expenses are subtracted for the previous two weeks. If a student has a positive balance, every $25 over will earn them one grade point. If they have a negative balance, then every $25 below will lose them one grade point.

These bi-weekly calculations remind students that managing your money is a process, and your daily choices affect your future financial outcomes.

During one lesson, students discussed the benefits of saving from an early age and realistic saving goals they can implement now. "My goal is to not spend my money as soon as I get it and to save it for bigger things, like college," said Downs.

In February and March guest speakers will visit the classes to speak about investing for retirement and financial planning.

The affirmation statements are written on posters each time they complete a unit. They reinforce the concepts they learn, and give the students a financial mantra to repeat about their beliefs.

"I wish my kids has a class like this." says Hammerle. These are life skills that they will need no matter what career they end up in."

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