• A few personal finance lessons from the pandemic

    A young woman learning financial course using laptop.

    A few personal finance lessons from the pandemic

    Recent high school graduates are making financial choices during a pandemic that will impact their financial lives moving forward. Now, more than ever, it is extremely important for high school students to have the basic and foundational training needed to make informed financial decisions.

    COVID-19's impact

    The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our lives in numerous ways and forever changed the way we work, conduct business, and live our lives. Pew Research recently published personal finance statistics about the pandemic including;

    • Over 50% of non-retired adults believe the pandemic consequences will make it more difficult to achieve their financial goals.
    • 44% of people that believe the pandemic worsened their financial situation believe it will take at least 3 years to recover.
    • Lower income, minorities, and younger adults are more likely to have lost a job or taken a pay cut due to the pandemic.
    • Many respondents indicated their credit ratings had taken a hit due to the pandemic.1

    So, what can we learn from the pandemic? Let’s look at a few life lessons we can glean from our collective experiences.

    Rainy day fund

    Most financial experts recommend you have an emergency reserve fund, or rainy day fund, equivalent to three to six months living expenses set aside for emergency use. For example, assume your monthly expenses that include housing, automobile costs, insurance, utilities, food, and entertainment total about $2,500 per month. You will need to build a rainy day fund equivalent to $7,500– $15,000 that you can invest in liquid assets to help you weather job loss or other emergencies.

    Keep this money in a checking or savings account so you can access it quickly. Even though inflation is eroding the value at this time, you will still need to be able to access this money in an emergency.

    If you need to replenish your rainy day fund that was depleted during the pandemic, or establish one now, this should be one of your top priorities. Many people forced to stay home during the pandemic learned the importance of this cash reserve.

    Career choices

    Are you an essential worker or a nonessential worker? This designation applied to everyone during the pandemic when the government forced us to stay home. Some of us were able to work remotely. Others had jobs that had to be filled regardless of the pandemic like health care professionals, law enforcement, fire protection, and teachers. Some worked from home and others reported to work. Keep this in mind as you begin thinking about a career path. If you worked in hospitality and tourism or retail, you probably did not have a job during the pandemic.

    Rebuild your credit score if needed

    Many people were unable to make their payments during the pandemic which harmed their credit scores. A good credit score impacts your ability to borrow money and the interest rate you pay on those loans. A poor credit score can cost you thousands of dollars in additional interest charges over your lifetime.

    If your credit score took a hit during the pandemic, you need to begin repairing it now. Develop a plan to pay off loans that are in default. Pay down high interest credit card debt. Consider consolidating your loans and contact your lenders to work out a repayment plan.

    Tighten your budget

    Do you know where your money goes every month? Track your cash inflows and outflows for a couple of months. This will help you identify areas where you can cut back on spending.

    Make sure you have a long-term plan to create a continuous cash surplus so you can use this money to establish or replenish your rainy day fund and rebuild your credit. You may be able to sell a few things you no longer need or want or work a few extra hours each week. Create that budget surplus so you can become more financially secure.

    Reduce your debt

    Many people learned during the pandemic that their budgets were stretched too tight. They had too much debt to weather a loss in income. Take advantage of the current environment and try to pay off as much debt as possible.

    If you can go into the next financial crisis, whether economy-wide or on a personal level, with limited debt it makes it much easier to survive. Focus on paying down high interest debt first. Hopefully, the only debt you will have in a few years is your home mortgage.

    Learn more in Personal Financial Literacy, 3rd Edition

    There are other financial lessons you can learn from the pandemic, but this list is a good place to start. As the pandemic has shown, students today need more preparation than ever for the financial “real world” prior to high school graduation.

    Personal Financial Literacy, 3rd Edition (Madura, Casey & Roberts) addresses many of the issues presented here, including learning to budget, understanding how to read a paycheck and determining net (take-home) pay, choosing a bank or taking out a loan, and much more.

    Learn more about Personal Financial Literacy, 3rd Edition, by Jeffery Madura, Michael Casey, and Sherry Roberts

    Sources

    1Horowitz, J.M., A. Brown, and R. Minkin (March 5, 2021); “A Year Into the Pandemic, Long-Term Financial Impact Weighs Heavily on Many Americans” Pew Research Center

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  • Why we should teach personal finance in high schools

    by Dr. Sherry J. Roberts

    A youngman learning financial course on a mobile device

    Why we should teach personal finance in high schools

    Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important foundations for all school-age students to help prepare them to be productive citizens. The same can be said for personal financial education.

    The financial decisions facing high school graduates

    Debt.com recently reported “financial ignorance cost the average American almost $1,400 last year.”1 When thinking about graduating from high school, most students are faced with going to college or getting a full-time job, being asked to make many new financial decisions, including:

    • applying for financial aid for college
    • housing costs
    • transportation costs
    • insurance costs (health, dental, vision, rental, car)
    • food and everyday expenses

    And these all coincide with three main categories of students’ financial goals and interests identified by Kailen Stover (May, 2021):

    • living on their own
    • credit and credit cards
    • taxes

    High school graduates are underprepared for their financial future

    Today’s 18-year-olds face financial and money management decisions from high school graduation to retirement, with the decisions they make now often having long-term effects. However, young adults may not have the experience and education to make these decisions .3

    The first major financial decision many high school seniors make is when they commit to a college/university or continued vocational training. Many of these high school seniors do not understand how payment of student loans will affect their budgets or finances beyond college.

    Ann Carns (2022) wrote that financial concerns were increased because of the pandemic and the rise of inflation causing a strain on households. She also reports other factors such as student debt levels and precarious retirement security have made it even more imperative that personal financial literacy among high school students be a priority.4

    How Personal Financial Literacy, 3rd Edition, can help

    Personal Financial Literacy, 3rd edition teaches students the essential financial management skills needed for life. It provides students with not only financial or life lessons but allows them to apply those lessons in a real-world context. The third edition:

    • teaches language/vocabulary of personal financial planning
    • introduces financial plans, cash flow, spending decisions, budgets, and balance sheets
    • provides information on renting or buying a home and the importance of homeowners or renters insurance
    • discusses savings and investing, introducing the various financial institutions and the basics of choosing a bank, available banking services, checking accounts, savings accounts, retirement savings options, and investing fundamentals (including stocks/bonds/mutual funds)
    • teaches how spending and credit affect future financial plans, emphasizing the importance of building good credit, protecting your identity, obtaining personal loans, and using credit cards wisely
    • teaches the effects of the economy, government (taxes), and continued education on life-long financial plans
    • gives an understanding of the importance of health insurance, life insurance, and other employer-provided benefits

    Financial education = successful life

    As stated earlier, financial decisions students begin to make right out of high school can and will affect them from graduation to retirement and beyond. Teaching students’ financial skills while they are still in school with a quality curriculum that successfully develops these skills is essential.

    Learn more about Personal Financial Literacy, 3rd Edition by Jeffery Madura, Michael Casey, and Sherry Roberts

    Sources

    1Debt.com Most Students Aren’t Prepared for Life After High School - Debt.com

    2Stover, Kailen (May 18, 2021); “Getting Started Teaching Personal Finance”; Edutopia.org Getting Started Teaching Personal Finance in High School | Edutopia

    3Frazier, Liz (August 29, 2019); “5 Reasons Personal Finance Should Be Taught in School”; Forbes 5 Reasons Personal Finance Should Be Taught In School (forbes.com)

    4Carns, Ann (March 18, 2022); “Bringing Personal Finance to the Classroom for Generation Z”; The New Times https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/18/business/adviser-students-personal-finance.html
     

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