Students throughout Utah have been required to take financial literacy classes for about ten years. Some adults are also enrolled in such classes.
This fourth part of the series Right on the Money explores how well those classes are working.
Students in the financial literacy classes spent time in a mock stock market investment game.
Last Friday, students from around Utah filled a banquet room at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City to celebrate their wins in “The Stock Market Game.”
Two fifth-graders from Lincoln Elementary School in Hyrum beat out everyone else, even the high schoolers, in total earnings.
Kim Piedra and Bergin Riley made $168,294.74 on paper.
They say they did it by being patient with their teammates and by checking their stocks every day.
Kim and Bergin say their teacher helped them.
They agree that it was a really fun learning experience.
State Treasurer David Damschen’s office is one of the sponsors.
“They’re picking stocks and seeing how dynamic some of these stocks can be, for good or bad . . . and they get a feel for how our capital markets work, how our free market system works.
Judy Hatch was also at the banquet with her team. She teaches financial literacy at East High School. And her class goes over a lot more than stocks.
“I drill home certain things to them. One thing that I drill really through, is that it doesn’t matter how much or how little your paycheck is, you spend less than you bring in. . . . No matter how much you make, you can find someone who makes less that is happy, and you can find people who make more that are broke,” Hatch says.
She says her students tell her this is the one class they really think they will use more than any other in their lives.
But a state audit this year found some problems with the program. Damschen says they are working on those problems.
“It runs the gamut, really, from cultural issues with adminstrators [and] principals, to teacher training, preparation, curriculum development, curriculum availability. . . . There [are] a lot of things that we can improve on,” Damschen says.
Some adults do take seminars or go to classes to learn how to be better with money.
Zions Bank financial literacy manager Don Milne heard recently from a couple he had in class two years ago.
“They were holding up a sign saying ‘We paid off $51,000 in debt, we are debt free.’ People can change their behavior. It takes having skills and they need to have that desire,” Milne says.
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