As students learn about the various investment and income-generating opportunities available for adults, their lessons are embedded in the broader framework of financial literacy and preparedness. When preparing student for financially sound futures, from income generation to investing skills, it’s important to provide a global perspective on income-related matters.
In an age where almost half of Americans report problems keeping up with bills, yet more than 60% own homes, it’s vital that the future generations develop wiser spending habits than previous generations have. The following lesson plans are curated for educators who recognize the importance of teaching young people the value of money and the importance of proper investment.
The National Standards for Financial Literacy were developed to help K-12 educators plan appropriate lesson plans and tutorials on wisely earning, spending and investing money. Full financial literacy instruction is divided into six sections, with unique learning standards for each grade grouping:
I. Earning Income
II. Buying Goods & Services
IV. Using Credit
V. Financial Investing
VI. Protecting & Insuring
This lesson plan packet uses the National Standards for Financial Literacy as a guide for listing educator resources. Lesson plans within each standard are designed for students across socio-economic backgrounds.
Webinar on the National Standards for Financial Literacy: This educator-directed webinar reviews the newly developed national standards as well as the six areas of knowledge. A great introduction for educators of any grade level, this webinar demonstrates the big picture of financial literacy education.
The Institute for Financial Literacy provides a detailed checklist of benchmarks and standards that should be understood by financially responsible adults.
Jump$tart.org lists competency levels for each of the national standards, serving as an additional reference guide for educators.
Financial literacy education in the early grades introduces students to the ideas of jobs and incomes, basic financial literacy and the function of credit and investments. In these early grades, students are introduced to basic financial concepts and vocabulary words that are built upon in later grades.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 4, students should have an understanding of the following income benchmarks:
Being Resourceful Lesson Plan: This lesson plan introduces students to the idea of generating income with a specific purchase in mind. Students brainstorm various ways to earn money and work together to decide on a “good” to produce. Students then work to understand the resources they’ll need to produce this good and generate revenue.
Learn to Earn When You Tend to Spend Lesson Plan: This lesson plan introduces students to the relationship between earning money and spending money. Students will use simple mathematics to add and subtract from pretend budgets.
Lemonade Stand Online Game: This game can be played in-classroom or assigned as homework. It introduces students to the concept of supply and demand with a virtual lemonade stand. As the weather varies, day-to-day, students must decide how much to charge for their lemonade in order to maximize profits.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 4, students should have an understanding of the following goods & services benchmarks:
Understanding Goods & Services: This lesson plan teaches students how to differentiate between goods and services and explains the necessity of resources when developing goods and services for sale.
Common Cents: This unit plan introduces students to U.S. currency and the concept of using currency to purchase goods and services. Students learn how to count money and use it responsibly when shopping for goods and services.
Goods for You!: This lesson teaches the definition and practical uses of “goods” and “services.” Students will use U.S. quarters to identify and differentiate between goods and services and will list goods and services they use in their daily lives.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 4, students should have an understanding of the following savings benchmarks:
Do You Like to Spend or Save?: This lesson plan helps students gain a better understanding of their spending habits, to prepare them for budgeting and money-monitoring in the future.
Fun With Coins: These in-class or take-home games give students the opportunity to work with and gain better understanding of coin denominations.
All In It Together – Economic Climate Lesson Series: This lesson series gives students a bigger-picture understanding of family budgets and encourages them to think of saving money as a family-togetherness goal.
The Pickle Patch Bathtub: This lesson plan provides students with an example of a real-life savings scenario and helps them to understand the concept of saving up for a large purchase – in this case, a pickle patch bathtub!
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 4, students should have an understanding of the following credit benchmarks:
How Credit Works: Students learn the process and vocabulary around credit cards and loans and credit reports. Students are also advised of the potential pitfalls of taking out too much credit or not paying back credit on time.
Analyzing Credit Cards: Students learn vocabulary around credit cards and imagine scenarios in which credit use may be beneficial or harmful. They also gain an understanding of credit use in the U.S.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 4, students should have an understanding of the following financial investing benchmarks:
Double Your Money: Students will work with coins to better understand and visualize the concept of “exponential growth.”
Practical Money Skills: This lesson plan series helps students understand the basic concepts behind financial decision making, to prepare them for instruction on real estate and investing in later grades. Students will learn about money and its value and how to spend it wisely.
Hands on Banking: This online game for kids explores various parts of bank usage and helps students understand the value of money saving.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 4, students should have an understanding of the following financial protecting & insuring benchmarks:
Wise Pockets: In this lesson, students learn about two young girls who earn the same amount of money – one girl saves hers, the other spends it. Students learn to evaluate the risks and rewards of saving and spending.
How to Teach Health Insurance to Kids: This one sheet defines common insurance terms and scenarios in language for elementary school students, preparing them to further study insurance and risk in later grades.
By the middle school years, students are accustomed to making small purchases on their own and are more familiar with the way adults spend money. The classroom lessons are expanded to include more detailed real-world concepts and situations.
Middle school students learn that financial responsibility often involves the making of difficult decisions – to earn money now and put off further education, or to go into debt now and hope to earn more money later? To take a risk and invest in a riskier stock that could earn a big return, or to play it safe, but with less of a chance of earning big dollars?
Students in the middle grades are even better prepared for faux real-world scenarios, such as investing a pretend $100,000 in the stock market or holding a fake auction for goods and services. These types of games teach students concepts while also reinforcing the practical applications of their financial lessons.
Practical Money Skills provides a full unit of financial lessons for middle school students, including lessons on earning income, budgeting, saving, credit, and home buying.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 8, students should have an understanding of the following income benchmarks:
What Education Do You Need to Live Comfortably? This lesson plan encourages students to plan for their education future with income-generation in mind. Students will perform research to better understand how much money they’ll need to make in order to live comfortably and will develop an understanding of the education levels needed for those income levels.
Frugality Game: This online tutorial teaches students the basics of banking and income generation.
Finance Park: This online game provides students with a fictional job, age, income, and education and tasks them with balancing a personal budget and making life decisions.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 8, students should have an understanding of the following goods & services benchmarks:
Understanding Goods & Services: Students outline a list of goods & services they use every day and learn about the necessity of choosing between goods & services depending upon the resources available.
Applying: Goods & Services: Students learn about the difference between natural and human resources and consider the resources needed for a peanut butter & jelly making business.
Analyzing: Goods & Services: Students consider the pros and cons of developing a plot of land into a park, a library or a shopping mall, based on the goods & services needed for, and created by, each development.
In Great Demand: Students apply the principles of supply and demand through a pretend auction.
Think Before You Buy: In this online lesson, students hear from kids their age about the pitfalls of poor spending habits and learn to consider their own purchases.
Bring Home the Bacon: This online game teaches students the basics of supply & demand. Students set the price of a good they’re selling in order to earn the most revenue.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 8, students should have an understanding of the following savings benchmarks:
Banking: Students learn how to correctly write a check and develop other banking-related skills in this interactive lesson.
Budgeting: Students learn the value and importance of keeping a budget, take a look at different types of family budgets, and develop their own pretend spending plan.
Where Does the Money Go? Students learn about the importance of budgets and create a personal one-month spending budget.
Alexander’s Coin Conundrum: Students apply a fictional story to the real world, by considering how one boy can spend all his money in a week.
Charity Fair: Students learn the importance of budgeting and financial decision-making in this online game where they must choose among various charities to donate to.
The Secret to Becoming a Millionaire: Students learn new savings-related terminology, such as incentive, interest, and opportunity cost, interest rate, and compound interest. They learn to calculate compound interest and learn the value of long-term savings plans.
Spreading the Budget: This lesson plan teaches new, budget-related vocabulary, such as periodic, variable and fixed expenses while reinforcing the concept of university preparedness by encouraging students to create a college budget.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 8, students should have an understanding of the following credit benchmarks:
Give Me Some Credit: Students learn the value of responsible credit card activity and learn to distinguish between good and bad credit by learning and reviewing credit-related terms such as interest and finance charge. Students will also review and discuss the Credit CARD Act of 2009.
Charge?!: Students learn about the features of credit cards and learn to evaluate the merits of different credit card offers.
Using Credit: Students read a book about earning money, saving, credit and debt. They apply these learned principles to real-world knowledge via an in-classroom look at the various types of credit and a class discussion on how the book’s characters handled their finances. Students will learn the difference between paying with cash and paying with credit and will look at example credit card statements to understand the concepts and terminology behind credit card debt.
The Business of Interest: Middle school students learn vocabulary and concepts behind bank loans, develop an understanding of loan interest, and play an interactive game to apply these concepts with an imaginary bank loan for a t-shirt business.
The Business of Credit: This lesson plan teaches students the basics of credit ratings and the factors that go into calculating a credit score. Students will also learn about managing the credit and finances for a small business by creating a model business and taking out a pretend loan to cover the expenses.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 8, students should have an understanding of the following financial & real estate benchmarks:
Real Estate Tycoon: In this year-long classroom project, students “design,” “build” and “sell” a house, learning the basics of home construction and resources as well as the ins and outs of the real estate market, giving them a sense of how a real-world investor earns income from this process.
Play CA Stock Market Game: Students are given $100,000 of pretend money to invest in the stock market any way they choose. Over the course of 10 weeks, students watch their investments grow and fall and gain an understanding of stock market investing.
Invest in Yourself: In this interactive, multimedia lesson, students will learn concepts and theories around personal finance and spending strategies. They will develop various budgets based on levels of debt and create budgets that allow room for investments.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 8, students should have an understanding of the following financial protecting & insuring benchmarks:
Consumer Fraud: Students are introduced to the various types of consumer fraud by creating oral reports on fraud in one of nine key areas: Internet, Identity Theft, Telephone, Home Repair, Modeling & Health Nutrition, Vacation, Pay Day Loans, Sweepstakes, Pyramid Schemes
Proactive Planning: In this classroom game, students learn the importance of preparing for uncertain financial futures by choosing cards with various economic scenarios and budgeting accordingly.
The Hurricane Game: This classroom game shows students how adults prepare for disasters by buying insurance.
As students prepare to leave the theoretical side of financial education and enter the “real world,” lessons become more practical and closer to students’ real-world decision making opportunities. Many high school students will have part time jobs and actual spending budgets. All will be preparing for post-graduation life and making decisions about college and careers, student loans and other credit opportunities.
Since high school students are perfectly positioned to learn about real-world financial and investment concepts, there are a variety of resources to provide educators with an overview of high school financial literacy.
Below are three resources that provide lesson plans and modules across many financial literacy national standards:
Money Smart: This FDIC-created lesson program is broken into eight modules to educate students on all aspects of banking literacy, from checking accounts, to credit cards and mortgage loans.
Financial Literacy for Everyone: A lesson plan packet that includes teacher materials, student worksheets, and research ideas for 22 unique lesson plans on financial literacy. Lessons can be used as stand-alone supplements or worked together as a unit, and include topics such as “Selecting a Banking Partner” to “Interest in Investing.”
Foundations U: This online lesson packet provides high school students with more than financial lessons. It includes quizzes, Q&A’s, radio call snippets from a real financial advising show and links to various financial education activities, to educate and prepare students for budgeting, saving and investing.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 12, students should have an understanding of the following income benchmarks:
The End & The Beginning!: Students create a portfolio for their lives and careers after graduation, encouraging them to start thinking about their financial futures in concrete terms.
Focus on Economic Data: High school students learn about and look at the unemployment rate to gauge the ease or difficulty of securing an income in the current economic climate. Students will learn about key economic indicators and the various labor markets.
Make Money Choices: This interactive site allows individuals to create budgets based on various salaries or determine the salary necessary for a desired budget. Perfect for high school students looking into the incomes of various career choices, this site brings budget ideas and theories into real-world terms.
Focus on Careers: This online tutorial delves into the details of career choosing, job hunting, small business planning and dealing with bosses.
Battle of the Bands: An online quiz game designed to test high school students’ understanding of various income-related terms and concepts.
Hire Yourself: Students will discuss various strategies for securing employment and play a recession-proof business game in which students vote on whether various career paths are wise choices during an economic recession.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 12, students should have an understanding of the following goods & services benchmarks:
Reality Store: This interactive lesson plan puts students in a simulation of real-world goods & services decision-making. Students visit fifteen booths, designed to mimic real-world financial decision-making opportunities. Community volunteers man the booths and use dice and other random selection elements to provide students with various economic outcomes.
The Power of Paycheck Planning: This lesson plans taps into the risk of improperly balancing goods & services with a particular income level. Students take an online quiz to determine their understanding of the consequences of poor paycheck planning, then watch a video on the process of foreclosure.
Expense Station Game: Students work to make proper decisions on goods & services purchases in this online, budget-balancing game.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 12, students should have an understanding of the following savings benchmarks:
Banzai: A free online educational resource for teachers, Banzai provides real-world scenarios designed to help students learn with real-life adult financial dilemmas.
Mapping a Retirement Plan: This online tutorial covers retirement concepts from 401K development to savings tips and tricks. Students preparing to enter the real world are in the best position to wisely plan their financial futures, and this tutorial covers the basics and beyond with methods for students’ futures.
Creating an Emergency Fund: This online tutorial helps students prepare for potential bumps in their financial future by developing an emergency savings fund. Students will also learns tips and tricks to help them save up for a rainy day.
Hands on Banking Program: This online game takes students through virtual financial and investment scenarios, from budgeting and savings to retirement savings plans. Students will learn the importance of preparing for the future and develop a better understanding of real-world ways to achieve their financial goals.
Savings Account Strategies: Students take a survey to determine which type of savings account is best for their financial objectives and learn about the various types of savings accounts available to bankers, as well as the questions to ask when opening a savings account.
Save USA – Taxes: This lesson plan provides students with an overview for understanding income taxes. Students will learn the difference between a gross income and a net income and why taxes are necessary in a democratic society. Students will also learn where their current and future tax dollars go.
To Be In Debt, Or To Not Be In Debt – That Is The Question: Students learn how to use their smartphones to aid in budgeting household and extraneous expenses. This lesson plan also teaches students about the various expenses adult budgeters can expect to come across.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 12, students should have an understanding of the following credit benchmarks:
Credit as Currency: Students use a lesson on quarters to discuss why credit and other forms of exchange have become prevalent in the U.S. economy. Students also study the use of credit in other cultures, such as ancient China, to gain a global perspective on credit.
Debt.org: This online resource is best for college-ready students who are considering student loans as a way to fund their education. It explains the processes of procuring and paying back student loans in detail and provides students with information on how to avoid too much debt.
Keys to Credit: This lesson teaches students the overall pros and cons of taking out a line of credit for everyday purchases. Students will learn how to establish credit and what to do if they are denied credit.
Credit Cards – What You Need To Know: This manual helps prepare educators for instruction on the uses and abuses of credit cards. It prepares instructors to teach the difference between revolving cards and charge cards and the options available for people with poor credit, such as subprime cards. The manual also provides information on credit card applications, terms and conditions of credit cards, and billing statements.
Dealing With Debt: This workshop for college-ready students provides information on preparing for student loans and other financial burdens of college. Including an editable powerpoint presentation, this lesson enables educators to teach the basics of debt in a lesson modified to their students’ needs.
Credit Reports & Credit Scores: Students will learn the difference between a credit report and a credit score and the factors that affect both. This lesson also provides information on what credit scores and credit reports are used for and tips on how to keep both in a financially healthy range.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 12, students should have an understanding of the following financial & real estate investing benchmarks:
Pop Goes the Housing Bubble: In this lesson, students learn about real estate investment and risk, in the context of the recent housing bubble rise and collapse. They will learn the difference between undervalued and overvalued assets and use role-play to analyze the incentives behind real estate purchase decisions.
Understanding Mortgages: This online tutorial provides students and educators with a comprehensive view of the various types of mortgages, how to secure a mortgage for a home, and the potential surprises found in mortgage contracts.
Value Your Home Equity: In this online tutorial, students learn the meaning of “home equity” in relation to a mortgage and how homeowners can use their equity to apply for additional lines of credit. Students will also learn techniques for determining if a home equity loan is a sound financial decision.
Learning, Earning & Investing: This lesson packet provides 21 lessons on various aspects of investing, such as the vocabulary of financial markets, gathering information on investments, and the nature of U.S. financial institutions. Students end the unit with a bowl game on financial markets.
Mortgage Calculator: This online loan calculator provides students with an easy tool for classroom lessons on real estate investment or real-world use.
High School Financial Literacy Course: This course on finances educates students on real-estate-specific terms and concepts. Students watch presentations and continue with class discussions on responsible home buying, and how to close a home purchase.
Stock Market Game: This web-based game teaches students the basics of investing by setting up pretend investment scenarios for each student participant. It includes a Teacher Support Center with links to relevant, teachable information on stock market investments.
According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, by grade 12, students should have an understanding of the following protecting & insuring benchmarks:
Successful Homeownership: This lesson plan packet provides educators with a lesson plan and class activities designed to teach the value of a financially-wise real estate investment. Students will learn about various types of home insurance and potential pitfalls of home ownership which lead to the foreclosure process.
ID Theft Quiz: This quiz provides a fun and interactive way to teach students about the importance of protecting their identities from fraud. Students will also learn how to monitor their credit history for potential fraudulent charges and what to do in the event of fraud.
Your Digital Dollars: This lesson packet teaches students how to use online tools to responsibly manage finances. Students will also learn about the risks involved in sharing their data online and techniques for keeping their information secure. Students will read over various online banking scenarios and try to determine “What’s Fishy?” about each situation.
Personal Bankruptcy Seminar: Students learn about bankruptcy, including the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. They’ll review ways to prevent bankruptcy, including credit counseling options. Students will review the financial circumstances of an example couple to determine if they may be trouble and discuss options for improving their situation.
Good Credit: Build It And Keep It: This tutorial educates students on the value of retaining a good credit history and explains how poor credit can negatively affect their financial future. The lessons learned in this unit can also apply to lessons in the “credit” standard.
My Money Five: This U.S. government-developed site teaches five building blocks for money management that can lead to a financially stable future.
High School Financial Planning Program: This six-lesson program was designed to help teachers create a thorough unit on financial planning for older teens. Students will learn about wisely planning for their financial futures via lesson plans, online quizzes and polls.
Financial Fitness for Life: This online curriculum can be used by students of all ages, as it includes lessons tailored by grade level. Each age group comes with a financial savvy-teaching game students can play (up to two players per module) in the classroom or at home.
PwC’s Financial Literacy Curriculum: Broken down by financial literacy topic and grade level, PwC’s modules include instructor lesson plans and student handouts for 12 money management topic areas, including “Stock Market,” “Paying for College,” and “Home Buying.”
Mortgage & Finance Glossary of Terms: Helpful for any unit covering mortgage and real estate investments, especially for high school students.
Survey – Financial Capability in the United States: This 2009 survey interviewed took a reading of adult Americans’ financial literacy in the wake of the Housing Crisis. The results could provide a stark starting point to help students see the types of various financial situations real-world adults currently face.
The Finance Challenge: An online game designed to get students excited about financial responsibility, The Finance Challenge is a national competition in which students compete based on their financial literacy, money management, spending & credit, saving & investing, and The Federal Reserve System.