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Spying on a Personal Finance Class


I recently sent my son to school equipped with some equipment from my old spy days.  Yes, I was a spy.  Damn, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that though.  Maybe that is the reason I didn’t last too long.   Regardless, I sent him with this gear so I could learn a little bit about what he was being taught on personal finance at school.  I figured I would listen in on his class and talk into his ear with some questions I wanted to ask the teacher.  It was definitely eye-opening.  To protect the innocent, we shall refer to the teacher as Mr. Jones and my son as Bob.

Mr. Jones – Alright, today we are going to cover Personal Finance.   Let’s flip to page 47 in your iPads.   Bob, you have a question already?

Bob – (Raises hand) Are we going to cover everything about personal finance just today?

Mr. Jones – Yes.  We feel that is more than enough time to properly address the topic.  So, let’s dig into junk bonds.  Yes, Bob.

Bob – (Raises hand) Are junk bonds really part of personal finance for us?

Mr. Jones – How about I start explaining them and then we can go from there?  Is that fair?   Bob, another question.

Bob – (Raises hand) Since I’ve never heard the term “junk bonds,” can we maybe cover things applicable to teenagers?

Mr. Jones – Such as…?

Bob – Roth IRAs

Mr. Jones – (long pause) A junk bond is a type of fixed inco…

Bob - (Raises hand) What about Roths?

Mr. Jones – fixed income that has a higher risk leve…

Bob – (Raises hand) How do we calculate our future repayments for any student debt we take on for college?

Mr. Jones – risk level than a typical bond.  You may remember junk bonds being famous in the 80s…

Bob – (Raises hand while wondering if Mr. Jones realizes no one in this class was alive in the 80s, let alone the previous century) Do I have to pay income taxes as a minor?

Mr. Jones – There have even been movies about junk bonds…

Bob – (Raises hand) Can you explain compound interest to us?

Mr. Jones – You’ll probably recognize the name Michael Milken…

Bob – (Raises hand) I just turned 18 and am starting to receive credit card offers.  What should I do with them?

Mr. Jones – Mr. Milken’s nickname was the “Junk Bond King,” but I doubt he wore a crown (looks around for chuckles from the half-asleep students)…

Bob – (Raises hand) Do I need to have renter’s insurance for the dorms at college?

Mr. Jones – (reaches in his desk drawer for a handful of Tums) Class, I think maybe we should spend the rest of class on independent study. Bob, how about you visit the principal.

Bob – (looks at his watch and realizes the day isn’t even 15 minutes over). Some days I feel like I’m living a Calvin and Hobbes panel.

Alright, so none of this happened.  However, after quizzing my son and his friends, their experience when it comes to personal financial education in schools has been pretty much non-existent.   And, since I am the world’s meanest father I’ve decided to do a little home schooling in this case.  He’s not too happy about this, but when he can explain to his friends why they should be getting some taxes back he realizes the importance.  Also, the credit card offers he is receiving never make it into the house.  They go straight to the trash bin outside.