High school seniors learn how to save now so they can spend later

The auction items went quick, some for just a few dollars and others for more than a thousand. It was one of the final economics lessons for Mary Persons High School seniors, as they spent the fake classroom money they’d saved up during the year.

Twelfth-graders at the school are required to take two semesters of economics, and this is the second year that teachers Jana Peacock and Chuck Simmons have incorporated a financial literacy program into their curriculum.

The program is based off the My Classroom Economy program by the company Vanguard and educator Rafe Esquith, said Peacock, who’s been at the school 10 years.

“The more I teach and the more see, I realize that having financial literacy is probably the most important thing that students can have in terms of being successful, and it’s something that they can carry no matter what job they go into,” Peacock said.

Students in all 11 economics classes get “paid” monthly and earn extra if they are hired for classroom jobs such as attendance monitor, auctioneer, clerk, auditor or messenger. They pay monthly rent for their desks and utilities and can purchase insurance.

They also invest in the stock market. Students get bonus dollars for showing good behavior and answering questions, but they’re fined for actions such as not having homework or being out of their seats.

At the end of each nine weeks, seniors can dip into their savings during student-led classroom auctions. During third period Tuesday morning, students Clay Moore and Alexis Passmore served as the fast-talking auctioneers and handed out donated items such as T-shirts, snacks and gift cards to the highest bidders. Students could also bid online for silent auction items such as a Chromebook, rounds of golf and a pop-up hamper and towels.

“It makes learning about money fun and not painful,” Peacock said. “I think it makes budgeting more exciting because you can see the rewards. It really rewards the students who save for the end of the year. That’s the biggest piece: save now, spend later.”

The program teaches students how to budget, pay bills, save for retirement and invest as well as the value of having insurance and good credit, she said. The students are excited to come to class and get involved, and underclassmen look forward to having their turn as seniors.

Passmore said she’s learned a lot of things that will help her when she’s in the “adult world,” such as taxes and supply and demand.

“It gives them something to work toward because they have to pay bills,” said Terrassa Fields, special education teacher and economics co-teacher with Simmons. “It gives them something for their futures.”

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea