Did you know that 75% of American teens don't feel confident about their personal finance knowledge?

David Rose from Schitt's Creek looking shocked.

It's not surprising since personal finance isn't a required course for many students. Only half of American states require a personal finance course before graduating high school.

Surprising and scary, right? Studies have shown that students who are "financially literate make better personal finance decisions." That's why it's important for personal finance courses to be taught in school.

An icon of a yellow lightbulb.

If you're planning to teach a personal finance course, but need help in developing the course, you can:

  • Determine what you want them to learn

  • Pay attention to your audience

  • Use games to reinforce lessons

  • Make it applicable to your students

What Do They Need to Know?

The first step in creating a course on financial literacy for teens is to decide what you want them to learn. For this, you need to consult your state or province's education department to determine if a set curriculum has already been established.

Spongebob scanning through a textbook while wearing glasses.

If your locality has one, you can create your course around this to hone in on what your students should learn.

If your state doesn't have one, you'll need to consider what you want your students to learn. Are there certain concepts that you want them to take away at the end of the class?

Who's Your Audience?

Personal finance can be an overwhelming topic for students.For many, this will be the first time they learn about budgeting, taxes, investing, interest rates, etc. It can be difficult for them to stay focused, so make sure your content applies to students, so they understand why it's important.

Helga from Hey Arnold! looking bored on an armchair.

Are you teaching middle school students? Consider starting with the basics, such as:

These concepts can be broken down and presented in a way that applies to them so they understand why it's relevant.

An icon of a red book with a money symbol sticking out of a plant pot on the cover.

Are you teaching high school students? If your students have never taken a personal finance class, you can incorporate what middle school students would learn and go into more detail by using real data, such as having students use salaries and actual rents/utilities to determine a budget.

Consider the following:

  • Getting a job

  • Taxes

  • Loans (credit, auto, student, home)

  • Budgeting using real data

  • Insurance


Eric wants to teach his 7th graders about personal finance. Why should he include digital citizenship in a class about personal finance? Choose all that apply:

Gamify Your Lessons

A group of people playing Monopoly. One says,

Games can be a great tool to use in your classroom. Studies have shown that games can help "increase student participation, foster social-emotional learning, and motivate students to take risks."

However, don't think you'll be playing Monopoly in your classes all day. When you decide to add games to classes, make sure they're "relevant to learning objectives."

An icon of the word Play with a mouse hovering over it.

One example of a game that could be used in class is called Stax. It teaches students about different ways to invest (savings, CDs, bonds, stocks, index funds, gold) over 20 years. They can compete against the computer or each other.

Watch the video below of a teacher walking through a part of the game:

You can find more educational finance games at:

An icon of a caution symbol.

If you decide to incorporate games, keep two things in mind for your lessons:

  1. Games should be age-appropriate.

  2. Make sure that your students have access to the games on their devices before you begin the lesson.

If you need further assistance, try this Byte on how financial literacy helps high school students learn about money.

How Can You Make It Real?

The last thing to do in preparing to teach personal finance to middle and high school students is to make it real for them by creating projects. By applying real-world examples, "students understand why they are learning is useful beyond the walls of their classroom".

A personal finance course is the perfect place to give real-world scenarios to students for them to work out.

A man saying,

You can assign real-world scenarios for the duration of the course or you can save it for a final project so students can apply and demonstrate what they've learned in class.

An icon of a green bag with a dollar sign on it, and stacks of coins beside it.

Project Examples

  • Classroom economy: Students receive salaries for jobs they perform in the classroom. They have bills to pay in the classroom and can spend the money in a store with incentives decided on by the teacher. It can also be used to help with classroom management. This can be used throughout the entire course and can be adapted based on grade levels.

An icon featuring a document, calculator, and coins.

  • Career and budget planning: Students choose or are assigned jobs by the instructor. Students are responsible for determining their salary and creating a realistic budget that includes housing, transportation, utilities, groceries, savings, etc. This could serve as a final project.


Eric is trying to tell his principal the benefits of implementing a classroom economy. Which of the following would help his argument? Choose all that apply:

Take Action

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Now, that you know how to create a course to teach personal financial literacy for teens, take these next steps:


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