Let’s Teach Our Kids About the Economics of Life – Before It’s Too Late!
By Joseph A. Peri, President, Junior Achievement of New York
Should I buy a coffee on my way to work or make coffee in the office break room? Is taking on student loans for a private four year college really the best choice for me? Should I pay my full credit card bill or just the minimum amount? Every adult – regardless of age, income and marital status – makes countless financial decisions every day.
Yet according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, only 2 in 5 adults say they keep track of their finances with a budget. With the cost of living steadily increasing around the country, the ability to plan and budget is more important than ever to achieving short and long-term life goals. But most young people aren’t taught the value of planning and budgeting in school. That’s where Junior Achievement of New York (JA) comes in. JA New York is in the business of empowerment.
Junior Achievement works in 275 K-12 schools across greater New York, teaching students about the economics of life. We infuse personal finance, entrepreneurship and job readiness content into thousands of classrooms, reaching 85,000 students a year. We owe it to our kids to prepare them for the real world, but surprisingly our school system doesn’t systematically teach these vital concepts.
One of our signature programs is JA Finance Park. It begins in the classroom with 15-20 teacher-led lessons that introduce students to personal finance and career exploration, and culminates with a day at our Finance Park facility. It’s filled with “storefronts” representing common expenses adults face each day such as housing, childcare, transportation, groceries, and more. Before researching spending options at these storefronts, students are randomly assigned an adult persona – marital status, education level, number of kids, gross monthly income – and they have to create and stick to a budget that works for their given circumstance. This real-life simulation teaches them to recognize what everyday things cost and learn how to budget and save money based on their income and expenses.
The impact of this day at the Park is profound. Students are amazed at how much it costs to rent an apartment or raise a child. They learn about the differences in income for people with a Master’s degree versus a high school diploma. They adjust their thinking when it comes to buying expensive clothing and electronics and what it really means to finance higher education options. And by the end of a mind-expanding day they express thankfulness and respect for what their parents and guardians do for them every day.
Junior Achievement of New York’s programs like Finance Park give young people a head start on the road to adulthood and make them aware of the avoidable hardships caused by financial illiteracy. Schools, teachers and students love the program – but we are literally turning schools away each year. The demand far outpaces our resources. By volunteering your time or making a donation, you can help JA New York give more schools and more kids the opportunity to participate in the Finance Park program and learn to make the most of their potential and contribute to the vibrancy of our communities and our economy.
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