Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Maxed Out

It's time we stop underestimating the responsibilities and realities of many current high school students. Many are making financial decisions right now that could impact them for the rest of their lives. They have adult responsibilities ranging from cell phone bills, car loans, and student debt decisions. It is shame school districts across the country continue to latch on to 19th century curriculum in a 21st century world full of complicated financial choices these kids have to face - - but that is another matter.

I spend a few weeks covering credit and debt in my semester-long Personal Finance class. I lay a foundation of credit and debt lessons that empower kids to responsibly take advantage of credit tools and opportunities. I transition into my unit on credit cards by reviewing key credit card terms and having them analyze credit card solicitations. They then evaluate two different credit card solicitations and have to make a choice between the two, and justify the reason for their choice. I bridge the lesson into an activity using this Bankrate financial calculator and a series of scenarios with various interest rates and debt amounts so they can see for themselves the high cost of making only the minimum monthly payment.

This year I decided to show the documentary Maxed Out. Maxed Out takes viewers on a journey deep inside the American style of debt, where things seem fine as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on time. With coverage that spans from small American towns all the way to the White House, the film shows the consequences of credit mismanagement and disheartening regulatory gaps. The documentary is full of tear jerking stories of exploitation, families in crisis, and suicides triggered by financial hardship. I recommend showing this film to your students so they can get a glimpse of what it is like to learn from the school of hard knocks.

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