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The recent economic recession has brought nationwide attention to the dangers of a financially illiterate society. Recent surveys and reports indicate the state of U.S. students’ financial literacy is in as poor shape as the U.S. economy was a few years ago. The Council for Economic Education’s recent Survey of the States indicates that only 22 states require students to take an economics course before graduation, only 16 states require testing students’ knowledge of economics, and only 13 states require students to take a personal finance course before graduation.



The U.S. Treasury Department and the Department of Education developed the National Financial Capability Challenge that among other things assesses the financial literacy of U.S. high schools. In 2010 the average score for nearly 76,900 students was 70 percent. Since then, things haven’t got better. Of the 80,000 students tested in 2011 and 2012, the average score was 69 percent.


 Check this link to see the results for your state.


CEE’s Survey of the States research shows that “Students from states where a financial education course is required had the highest reported financial knowledge and were more likely to display positive financial behaviors and dispositions. Compared to other students, these young adults were:

  • More likely to save, pay off their credit cards in full and be willing to take average financial risk.
  • Less likely to max out their credit cards, make late credit card payments or be compulsive buyers."


INTERACT’s Personal Finance: A Simulation of Managing Financial Activities in Everyday Life addresses many of the areas where students fall short in financial literacy. Personal Finance not only teaches financial concepts, but also allows students to make ­­­­simulated financial decisions and discover the consequences. Personal Finance deals with realistic scenarios where students make informed decisions about purchases, loans, insurance, and retirement. During the simulation, students manage data using financial tools such as savings and checking accounts and debit and credit cards.


In Personal Financestudents work in teams to explore a lifetime of financial decisions, from their first minimum-wage job to retirement. They apply for jobs and determine their gross and net wage. They also maintain savings and checking accounts, pay bills, manage credit card debt, and make important decisions such as buying a car, pricing insurance, fuel, and maintenance. Students will also look towards their future and apply for a higher-paying job, choose health care plans, mortgage a house, and save for retirement, all the while paying bills and maintaining financial records. A variety of student assessment guides are included where students write a reflective essay on their financial choices and complete a vocabulary matching test and a personal skills assessment.


Personal Finance is designed for grades 5-10 and follows the familiar INTERACT instructional format with knowledge, skills, and attitudes objectives, detailed set-up directions, a unit time chart, and fate cards. Personal Finance is also loaded with cooperative team-building activities that help develop collaboration skills in students not familiar with cooperative learning and enhance those skills with those who are. The simulation is conducted over 15 days; however, adjustments can be made based on the length of class time and students’ ability. The unit packet contains over 60 pages of student reproducibles providing all the necessary tools to conduct the simulation. Personal Finance addresses standards for the National Council on Economic Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and National Standards for School Mathematics as well as National Council of Teachers of English standards for English and Language Arts and California Applied Learning Standards. 


It is an understatement to say that students who are financially literate will do better in life than those who aren’t. Being financially literate can help young people make the prudent financial decisions to mitigate the impact of economic recessions when they occur. As Annamaria Lusardi, Professor of Economics at George Washington University has said: “Just as it was not possible to live in an industrialized society without print literacy – the ability to read and write – so it is not possible to live in today’s world without being financially literate. To fully participate in society today, financial literacy is critical.”


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