iPod or rent? Hands-on course teaches high schoolers about personal finance

my first checkbook
my first checkbook

Last week Northwest Ohio Credit Union invited more than 700 local high schoolers to learn more about money in Finances 101. The event was a crash course in personal finances and credit scores for the teens and also provided them with quite a few surprises about bills. The event reminded me of the popular board game LIFE, only with more consequences!

As students arrived they were handed a checkbook which contained their salary and current debts. From there they traveled to different tables picking out cars, insurance and dealing with other expenses that come with living on your own. There was even a table dedicated to unexpected expenses such as a car breakdown, which forced students to adapt as well as emphasized the need to plan ahead.

Students quickly learned the importance of budgeting and the consequences of not sticking to a budget. After working her way through the "month" one student had to write a bad check just to get her groceries; ending up $300 in the hole. The best news from the event was that many of these teens realized that it is important to spend money not on the things they wanted, but on the things they actually needed!

I think this is a great opportunity to show teenagers what it means to be in charge of your own finances, if only for a few hours. A program like this will go well with the mandatory personal finance classes for Ohio high schoolers set to graduate in 2010. Overall I think compact, hands-on programs like this have real a chance at impacting the future of teenagers everywhere. My personal thanks goes out to Northwest Ohio Credit Union and to the schools who allowed their students to participate. Keep up the good work!