Teaching dollars makes cents

awileman@sierrastar.comMarch 25, 2014 

For many Americans, financial woes are the biggest stress factors in their lives, and in many cases are the cause of poor health, insomnia and even marital problems.

Based on an analysis of Federal Reserve statistics and other government data, the average indebted household has more than $15,000 in credit card debt. This does not include mortgages, student loans and vehicle debt.

Statistic Brain — an online company whose goal is to obtain accurate statistics — randomly surveyed 2,500 individuals in an online poll and found that more than 69% of Americans have never balanced a checkbook and only 21% claim to faithfully balance their expenditures on a consistent basis.

To combat these increasingly detrimental financial issues, Glacier High School Charter in Oakhurst has added a personal finance class to their curriculum as a way to offer students an advanced look into the world of finance — before it's too late.

A brainchild of Glacier High School Charter Principal Eric Hagen, the course was designed as a way to give students some insight into making responsible financial decisions in their future lives.

The two hour class, taught by Viviann Carlson and Paul DePledge, is held every Wednesday and entices students to come and interact with questions about the world of finance.

Hagen's belief is that students need to be taught at a young age the importance of being financially responsible consumers and the benefits of keeping yourself debt-free.

"My hope in wanting to bring the class here is that students would see the way our culture is right now, and if they buy into it, that it can really hinder their futures," Hagen said.

The course incorporates the learning curriculum foundation into lesson plans, which include subjects on how to save money, how to keep yourself out of debt, budgeting, consumer awareness, life after high school, insurance, taxes and of course, retirement.

Hagen has a vision of teaching students about finances and pointing them in the right direction prior to the development of bad spending and saving habits.

DePledge, one of the class' instructors, believes teaching kids about finances is crucial in helping them maintain a stable life.

"It's the baby steps of personal finance. We start off with getting them an emergency savings account with a goal of $500 and explaining what an emergency savings account means ... the main emphasis in our class is paying cash. Cash is king. If you're going to buy a car, save up for it, don't take out a loan," DePledge said. "The curriculum visually shows them the difference between cash and credit."

DePledge says although a lot of the information is initial money-saving tips, it is all information students can use for the rest of their lives and is used to educate a particular group of future citizens and consumers about financial stability.

Hannah Archibald, a senior at Glacier High School Charter, who wants to become a culinary specialist in the U.S. Navy, said the finance class has given her a head start on the financial aspect of her life and the importance of only spending money she has saved.

"It has definitely taught me how to save my money and use it wisely. It has shown me how to do the things everyone needs to do like buy a car, without going into debt, and has basically taught me how to use money wisely," Archibald said.

Archibald says she would encourage others to take the course and really focus on financial independence.

"I recommend this to anyone, even people who are older than me, that have future plans. It helps you not only financially, but with making decisions on your own and whether or not you are making the right decision. It would help a lot of people who are struggling with these issues or don't know where to start," Archibald said.

Glacier has a broad menu of classes for students to choose from each semester. For the students who attend the Personal Finance class, they have the opportunity to get a head start on learning the "ins and outs" for what it takes to be financially responsible adults.

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