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Partners Perspectives: Students ‘Eager, Excited’ to Learn How Money Works
By Stuart L. Ritter
I’ve worked as a volunteer at St. John’s Lane Elementary and other Howard County schools for many years, helping to make financial literacy exciting and relevant to elementary and middle school students. Together, we work on key concepts like setting financial goals, saving and spending wisely, and learning about inflation and diversification.
What comes across to me most strongly is how eager students of all ages are to learn about this. They hear about money and finance all the time, and they’re very interested in learning more about the mechanics of how money works—and even more importantly, the values we ascribe to money, especially when it comes to making financial decisions.
We might think that the material would be foreign and boring for the students. But, instead, the kids are really excited and interested. And what we’re seeing is that they are acquiring lifetime skills. It’s not just about money. Money is really about values and priorities and trade-offs. It’s about making decisions and understanding their consequences. Helping kids at a young age understand that sets them up for later in life.
For example, if a student is saving up to buy a video game, but then they use their money to buy a pack of baseball cards instead, that decision has consequences. And thinking that through helps you plan in other ways: Do I stay home and do homework, or do I go out and ride my bike?
Tips for Parents
- Make learning about finances part of your everyday family life. When you’re in the grocery store, planning a vacation, or paying the bills, that’s a good time to show your child the mechanics of money, how a credit card works, and the values you associate with money.
- Instead of just telling your child you can’t afford to buy something, help them understand how this reflects your values. For example, you can say, ‘We drive an older car because saving for college is a more important priority, so we’re putting our money toward that.’
Helping students acquire financial literacy skills in school is very important, but parents are an equally important part of this conversation.
Stuart L. Ritter is a vice president of T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. He is a senior financial planner in T. Rowe Prices’s Financial Planning Services Group. He and his wife are the parents of three young children.