Thursday, February 28, 2013

When changing your mind can cost you over 100K

Regardless of what I do or the resources I use, I get the same question from some students. "How am I supposed to know what I want to do for a career?" It's a fair question, I didn't know what I wanted to do when I was in high school. A matter of fact, it wasn't later in my life until I found my passion and chose to return to school and become a teacher.

I will begin the unit with the video above. I will follow the video and a subsequent short discussion up with an activity correlated with the article "There's More to Life Than Being Happy". The article was inspired by the thoughts of Viktor Frankl, a prominent psychiatrist and neurologist who survived a Nazi concentration camp. I will also have the students participate in an activity correlated to the article "Why You'll Never Be Able to Keep Up With the Joneses", written by psychologist and behavioral finance expert Dr. Crosby.

I will transition into a project based learning activity. To briefly summarize, I will begin by having the students take a number of student-led interest inventory and career connection assessments on the Ohio Career Information System (OCIS) website. After that, the students will research careers that the assessments identify as a good fit, and careers they are interested in not identified by the assessment tools. I will have them use this entry point or this entry point to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics website for them to do their research. They will also have to conduct an interview with someone from a career field they are interested in, and for extra credit can shadow someone in the workforce.

We also have one of the best guidance departments you could ever hope for. Between the two of them they have 70 years of experience with the energy of teenagers. 

It would be helpful if students had some sort of work experience. Many of my students who want to work cannot for various reasons. I believe this makes it harder for the kids to know what they want to do, or not do, because many do not have any practical working experience. Even if their teenage job has nothing to do with the career they are interested in, they have at least experienced what it is like to have a job.

I understand people change their careers quite frequently throughout their lives, and we are preparing some students for careers that do not exist. I use the video in this post to illustrate this point to my students. But this doesn't mean we should just wish our graduating seniors who are matriculating to college good luck and ignore our growing student debt crisis.

This is a very expensive problem for any students who are going to take on any student debt. I do the best I can in our unit on credit and debt using these resources to help prepare students to make a wise and informed student debt choice. But this doesn't help all that much if it takes them six years to graduate because they keep changing their major. It can cost students thousands of dollars in additional coursework when they change their majors two or three years into college.

I am wide open for any pedagogy or resource suggestions to help my students find the right career connection for them.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

MetLife teacher survey, meet Shawn Achor

"Teacher job satisfaction has plummeted to its lowest level in 25 years, from 62 percent in 2008 to 39 percent in 2012 — a total of 23 points, according to the annual Metlife Survey of the American Teacher, released today." Click here to read the results of the full survey.

Times are tough, which is why I particularly appreciated Shawn Achor's TED talk my friend Stacey Roshan tweeted. It's full of hilarity and research based suggestions to be a happier, more productive worker.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Financial First Encounters

While researching for a lesson I am pulling together on using mobile phones for financial management and financial decision making, I ran across a quality research paper by Corey Stone of the Center for Financial Services Innovation.

Financial First Encounters: An examination of the fractured financial landscape facing youth today was full of suggestions that would build a stronger bridge between financial knowledge and financial capability.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Credit reporting and my experience with Experian

Last week was rough for the credit reporting agencies. 60 Minutes took advantage of this FTC report released on 2/11/13. According to the FTC, this report

“…is the first major study that looks at all the primary groups that participate in the credit reporting and scoring process: consumers; lenders/data furnishers (which include creditors, lenders, debt collection agencies, and the court system); the Fair Isaac Corporation, which develops FICO credit scores; and the national credit reporting agencies (CRAs)”

In this coverage, 60 Minutes chose to portray the credit reporting agencies as villains solely responsible for credit reporting inaccuracies. Yet 60 Minutes failed to lead with, or effectively report the opening paragraph on the FTC website I quoted above identifying all the participants in the credit reporting and scoring process responsible for working together to improve the accuracy of our credit reports and credit scores.

Credit reporting agencies aggregate data. Lenders are responsible for providing accurate data, and consumers are responsible for checking their credit reports once a year for free to make sure the data being reported is accurate. But less than 25% of Americans check their credit report each year.

So I find the most alarming statistic is that 75% of us are not doing our part in the process. Alarming, but not surprising as students from 46 states continue to graduate without an adequate financial education. Checking your credit report for free once a year is just one anecdote of information included in quality financial education curricula.

As you can watch in this FOX interview, credit expert John Ulzheimer agrees that consumers “…have to become way more engaged in our credit reports.” By the way, if you go to and do find an error and need to dispute it, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wrote this very easy to understand article that can help you.

To be clear, accurate credit reporting is a collective effort. The lenders, the reporting agencies, and the consumers need to work together to improve because according to the FTC, five percent of consumers had errors on their credit reports that could result in less favorable terms for loans.

The FTC and John Ulzheimer aren’t alone in telling consumers to check their credit reports once a year for free. Experian has been doing it for years in a number of ways. As it relates to my particular passion, Experian recognizes that consumer engagement in the process needs to begin with education.

Here is a little bit about my experience with Experian…

Experian is a national leader in financial education. Experian’s education arm are led by Maxine Sweet and Rod Griffin, each passionate and genuine people dedicated to bringing financial education to life in our schools. They are leaders who go far beyond their job descriptions.

• Experian had the courage and vision to be with Jump$tart as a partner since the beginning. Jump$tart is a national coalition of organizations dedicated to improving the financial literacy of pre-kindergarten through college-age youth by providing advocacy, research, standards and educational resources. Jump$tart strives to prepare youth for life-long successful financial decision-making. I am strong personal advocate of Jump$tart and their mission.

• Experian is a major sponsor in Jump$tart’s National Educator Conference, which I attend every year with hundreds of other educators. At their conference teachers are treated like royalty. The facilities and food are first class, the professional development is meaningful, and most of the resources we can take home are free.

• Experian presents each year at the conference. This year they were the first group to present in a Twitter Town Hall format. By the way, they always bring up the importance of checking your credit report once a year for free.

• Experian helped fund My Money Checkup, which was built by the National Foundation for Credit Counselors. A matter of fact, I just blogged about how valuable this service is. You can read my post here.

• Experian helped fund and build LifeSmarts. LifeSmarts develops the consumer and marketplace knowledge and skills of teenagers through competition and rewards, and is primarily used by my FCCLA friends.

• Experian works with FEFE, who provides a number of terrific educational resources such as turn key lessons, webinars, and training.

• Experian’s credit education blog is a great resource for students and consumers.

• On a number of occasions Rod Griffin has taken the time to Skype with my classroom to help my students better understand the credit reporting process. Each time Rod begins the Skype by stressing the importance of checking your credit report for free once a year.

The FTC report did raise some flags, but it is a systemic problem. I hope it causes the media to look deeper into a broader problem of how our education system continues to neglect the financial education needs of consumers in our modern society.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Money Checkup: The ideal budgeting tool

Everyone should have a budget. Many budgets do not look the same for a number of reasons. Budgets should reflect values and priorities which differ from one person to the next. Also, the cost of living (particularly housing) differs across the country impacting how much someone can and should allocate for each budget item. With that said, there are limitations of what everyday Americans can spend on certain budget items in order to afford other budget items regardless of values, priorities, or location.

My Money Checkup is the ideal budgeting tool for identifying when someone may be overspending in a certain budget category, facing dangerous amounts of debt, or not putting enough money aside for retirement.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is the nation's largest and longest-serving nonprofit credit counseling organization. They have developed My Money Checkup, a resource that provides consumers with a means of evaluating four key areas of personal finance: budgeting and credit management, saving and investing, planning for retirement and home equity. The tool is now available in Spanish at

My Money Checkup is an adult education tool as well. Research tells us that the closer we can get our students to actually managing money while learning about money the more effective the lessons will be. Our kids should still experience a scaffolding of financial education in our K-12 education system, and the NFCC agrees.

“The National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s (NFCC) Financial Literacy Survey asked people where they learned the most about personal finance. Only 10 percent indicated it was in the school system, with 44 percent saying they learned the most from their parents,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Since parents may or may not have responsible financial habits, it makes perfect sense for the schools to incorporate a personal finance course into the curriculum required for graduation. Doing so could significantly advance the level of financial literacy for this generation of youth.”

Whether you happen to be an adult learning from the school of hard knocks, or you just want a money checkup, I recommend taking a little time out of our day to experience My Money Checkup.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Your High School Students Need This Resource Now

I was overjoyed to run across the True Cost to Own financial calculator today. It should not matter what subject you teach, before your high school students take a deep plunge into automobile debt be sure to expose them to the True Cost to Own financial calculator. 

How many high school students do you know who turn 16 and immediately purchase a car? They typically want more freedom, but ironically they end up with less freedom because they have to work to pay for their car. What many students fail to consider is the true cost of owning the car. They fail to consider the impact of expenses such as depreciation, maintenance, insurance, and gasoline. Thus my excitement when I ran across the True Cost to Own financial calculator.

Click here if you are interested in how I am incorporating the True Cost to Own financial calculator in my "Purchasing a Automobile" lesson. If you happen to look for posted lessons in future units you will not find many. I am transitioning into a 1:1 classroom and am uploading the assignments and resources about a week ahead of time.

Enjoy the new resource.

PS - Buying and Owning a Car from the FTC is a great resource as well.