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Business Education | Career Readiness | Personal Finance

What Is Personal Financial Literacy and Am I Required to Teach It?

April 18th, 2023 | 8 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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If you teach high school business or career readiness, there’s a strong chance you’ll be required to cover a course in personal financial literacy. However, you may be unsure about who must take your class or why you’ve been asked to teach it in the first place.

So what exactly is a financial literacy class? And why do so many institutions nationwide require students to take this course?

In this article, you'll learn more about personal finance course requirements. Specifically, we'll look at:

  • What Is a Personal Financial Literacy Class?
  • What Does a Financial Literacy Class Include?
  • Who Is Required to Take a Personal Finance Course?
  • Which States Require Personal Financial Literacy?
  • How Can I Meet My School's Requirements?
  • How Do I Teach Personal Finance According to My School's Requirements?

After reading, you should better understand this critical business education class. You'll learn about where personal finance is required and how you can be sure you'll meet your standards.

What Is a Personal Financial Literacy Class?

Personal financial literacy (sometimes called personal finance or financial literacy) is an introductory-level business education and career readiness course.

Unlike most business courses, however, it isn't a gateway to a specific CTE career cluster. Rather, it's a dedicated general education course intended to provide basic money management education and skills to a broad population of students.

While schools can offer personal finance as an elective, it's often a general requirement of all graduating students in a particular school, district, or state. We’ll look at this aspect of personal finance later in this article.

Although individual learners can take a financial literacy course as adults, a middle or high school personal finance course aims to produce students who understand basic monetary principles to make sound financial judgments throughout their lives.

What Does a Financial Literacy Class Include?

Personal financial literacy is a basic introduction to common money management principles every adult should know and understand. Unlike a business finance course, where the goal is to understand how to run a profitable corporation, personal finance teaches the benefits of sound financial management on a much smaller scale.

The content you teach in this course may vary based on state and national standards. Regardless, the focus is on rudimentary financial exercises that are highly applicable to a student's role as a money maker. The goal is to produce students who will be responsible when making decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Often, financial literacy curriculum revolves around the five major areas of personal finance:

  • Income
  • Savings
  • Spending
  • Investing
  • Protection

It's also common for personal finance standards to include routine tasks related to personal money management. Some examples of these activities include:

  • Creating a budget
  • Paying taxes and filing a tax return
  • Financial statements and recordkeeping
  • Planning for retirement
  • Insurance and risk management
  • Retirement planning

Regardless of whether your standards specifically note these topics, including them in your instruction will give your learners an appreciation of the fundamental activities and behaviors that lead to personal financial success.

Who Is Required to Take a Personal Finance Course?

Who is specifically required to take a personal finance course can vary from state to state. Students who take personal finance should be old enough to understand basic financial instruction. This includes concepts like money management, budgeting, filing a tax return, managing credit cards and credit, and introductory information on debt issues like home mortgages and car loans.

It is certainly possible for students as young as middle school to grasp many of the basic concepts of financial literacy. However, they may not be quite ready to apply these concepts to their own lives and in the context of their future career plans.

For these reasons, most schools that offer or require personal finance do so at the high school level, typically beginning in ninth grade.

Teaching this course early in high school lays the groundwork for any future business classes a student may take, such as a general finance or accounting course. It also ensures that students pursuing careers completely separate from business have the knowledge and skills necessary to manage their finances competently.

Beyond this general age range, however, state legislatures and education departments often decide on specific course requirements.

Which States Require Personal Financial Literacy?

While a financial literacy class is optional in the majority of American states, the number of states where schools are required to cover personal finance is continually growing.

Currently, 20 states require some form of personal finance coursework:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia

In addition, other states may add financial literacy class requirements in the near future. In 2022, Florida announced that it would require all students to complete a semester-length course in personal finance beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.

Florida's declaration is part of a growing movement among America's high schools to promote financial literacy. Next Gen Personal Finance reports that bills related to financial literacy education are pending in more than half of the 50 states.

Ultimately, the amount of attention surrounding financial literacy evidences the value educational leaders and legislators see in personal finance. Even if personal finance is not already required in your school or CTE program, there is a significant chance it will be mandatory for all students within the next several years.

How Do I Teach Personal Finance According to My School's Requirements?

Even if personal finance is not required in your state, students may still be obligated to take a financial literacy course. Many individual schools and districts already mandate a finance class regardless of state requirements.

When there isn't guidance from a state education department, course requirements can vary from district to district. For example, some schools may require students to take a year-long class in financial literacy in ninth grade. Others institutions might only require a semester-length course sometime before graduation. Even more schools may not have a mandatory personal finance class but offer it as an elective.

Regardless of the type of class available at your school, it's critical to understand your standards and expectations before teaching the course. Be sure to take note of the specific criteria you're required to follow, the length of time you have to cover each subject area, and any particular aspect of financial literacy you should emphasize.

For example, many schools follow the NBEA standards for personal finance. It’s also popular for personal finance courses to stress the appropriate use of credit and how to file federal, state, and local taxes.

One way to get started with teaching personal finance is to build your curriculum around some of the top personal finance projects for high school. When you choose an engaging project to work on, your students are more likely to be excited about the course content.

Overall, being prepared for the type of personal finance course you’re asked to teach will ensure that you'll cover any required content, satisfy course standards, and prepare your students for making prudent financial decisions.

Teach Personal Financial Literacy with a Comprehensive Curriculum

In this article, you've discovered how personal financial literacy is a rapidly growing requirement in many high schools. When teaching personal finance, it's paramount that your students receive accurate information that will help them make sound money decisions on behalf of themselves and their families.

But when you aren't meeting your standards, your students are at risk of not learning the money management essentials that they need to be successful on their own.

Thankfully, you can help your learners be ready for independence by adopting a comprehensive business education curriculum that covers personal finance.

The iCEV curriculum system includes everything you need to teach a full-year personal finance class. Regardless of whether your state requires financial literacy, iCEV can help you satisfy your standards and prepare your students for financial success.

Click below to learn more about the iCEV personal finance course:Discover the Personal Finance Course