Monday, September 08, 2014

H&R Block Budget Challenge: Financial literacy and personal finance

As I recently wrote about in a Discovery Educator Network blog post, financial literacy is one of the important literacies for our students to acquire. Financial literacy, sometimes referred to as economic literacy, according to Atomic Learning, “targets the importance of making appropriate economic choices on a personal level, and understanding the connection personal, business, and governmental decisions have on individuals, society, and the economy”.

Students are often taught, in a social studies class or a economics class, about the impact the decisions made by businesses and government have (and have had) on society and the economic climate. Students study capitalism, the Great Depression, government bail-outs of corporations, manufacturing, and so on.

However, the area that is often overlooked is the personal finance component of financial literacy. Sometimes how to develop a budget is taught in a math class when learning about spreadsheets. And I remember working in pairs in my high school health class while we developed a budget for a wedding. (Really!)

There are many online materials and sets of state standards to help teachers develop lessons and units dealing with personal finance into and across the curriculum. I have included resources in the DEN blog post, but I especially like the Council for Economic Education's set of standards for financial literacy that start in grade three, and include:
  • Earning income
  • Buying goods and services
  • Using credit
  • Saving
  • Financial investing
  • Protecting and insuring

To provide a more engaging and "real-world" practice with these personal finance skills, H&R Block is sponsoring an online contest, The H&R Block Budget Challenge, that provides students with a chance to compete for prizes while learning how to manage their money through a simulation environment. (Students in grades 9-12 and at least age 14 are eligible.) 

The contest involves students, over a period of two months, immersing themselves "into the financial life of a recent college graduate who has been working for about six months. Each student gets a regular paycheck, a checking account, a 401(k) savings account and bills to pay throughout the simulation. By maximizing 401(k) savings, paying bills on time and responding correctly to quiz questions while avoiding fees like late fees, overdraft fees and finance charges, students increase their individual score."

There are six different start dates to pick from. (The first one is October 3, and registration for your class is due at least a week before the start dates.)  At the mid-point and conclusion of each period, the highest scoring classroom will win a Classroom Grant with up to $5000. And, at the end of each two-month period, twenty-two students will be awarded a $20,000 scholarship each! The grand prize of a $100,000 scholarship will go to the student who had the highest score of any student during the contest period.

What better way to give students real-world practice as they learn how to manage their money and finances? The added bonus of classroom grants and college scholarships will keep students engaged in the process. And, if they win, they will be well-versed in how to manage their winnings!

So get your students involved today! The H&R Block Budget Challenge site has much more information and details!