This lesson is designed to get students interested in economics and personal finance. While financial planning may seem to be dull and time-consuming, finding out how to become a millionaire is a topic likely to stir up considerable interest. Of course the lesson does not pretend to offer a fail-safe procedure for achieving wealth. It emphasizes, instead, self-discipline, planning, and making sound choices-about getting a good education, spending wisely, saving early and often, and taking prudent risks. Nor does the lesson imply that the main goal in life is to become wealthy. Wealth, in itself, is no guarantee of happiness. But wealth can expand the range of choices available to people as they establish and pursue their life goals.
This lesson introduces a process of reasoning that is often referred to as the economic way of thinking. The process is summarized in The Handy Dandy Guide, a six-point primer on economic reasoning. Using the Handy Dandy Guide, the students analyze two situations.
The students learn to use a particular model for making decisions. They apply the model in exercises that call for choosing a college and buying a personal computer. The model focuses on explicit identification of problems, alternative possibilities for solving problems, criteria for evaluating those possibilities, and the opportunity cost of the decisions arising from the process. The need to make decisions is shown to be based in the condition of scarcity.
Getting a job is fundamental to achieving economic success. Most people begin their work lives working for others. While obtaining a job can be a challenge, there are widely accepted practices in business and government that make the process less difficult. This lesson provides an overview of steps for finding job openings, writing a letter of application, preparing a resume, completing an application, and participating in an interview.
Not everyone works for someone else. Some people make jobs for themselves. They are called entrepreneurs. This lesson focuses on entrepreneurs. It identifies characteristics of entrepreneurs, compares advantages and disadvantages of becoming an entrepreneur, and examines potential areas for success through entrepreneurship.
Why do some people earn more income than others? This lesson explores that question. It begins by clarifying what income is. Then it focuses on the relationship between human capital and income. It culminates with an activity linking levels of education to the fastest-growing occupations.
Young people are sometimes surprised to learn that the pay they earn is not the same as the pay they take home. This lesson introduces students to the concepts of gross pay, net pay, marginal tax rate, income taxation, tax planning using pretax dollars for retirement savings and insurance, and the completion of Form 1040EZ. It teaches them how to compute tax savings from using pre-tax dollars for insurance and retirement plans. It asks the question, "Is it better to get a tax refund or to withhold lower tax payments throughout the year?" The students use paycheck stubs, W-2 forms, and tax tables to calculate taxable income, marginal tax rates, and taxes owed. They also complete a 1040EZ form.
This lesson introduces some basics of money management. By means of a radio call-in show script, students learn about setting up a family budget and distinguishing between income and net worth. To practice making budgeting decisions, the students make budgeting recommendations for a young family.
This lesson provides an overview of four types of financial institutions. It invites the students to investigate services available from financial institutions in their own community. As an example of a common financial service, the lesson stresses checking accounts-their main features and the mechanics of using them.
As people begin to earn an income and acquire assets, they begin to think about how to protect what they have against the risk of financial loss. Toward this end, many people buy insurance. This lesson explains how insurance works and provides an overview of different types of insurance. The students participate in a simulation activity that allows them to use their understanding of the costs and benefits in decisions about purchasing insurance.
Decisions about credit loom large in the lives of adults as they consider buying big-ticket items- a home or a new car, for example. Young people often use credit, too-using credit cards to buy goods and services, for example, or taking out loans to pay for college expenses-and the decisions they make in these cases can have important consequences. This lesson introduces the concept of credit, with special attention paid to the advantages and disadvantages of using credit. It also describes particular types of loans including home mortgage loans, car loans, college loans, personal loans, and credit card loans.
In deciding whether to use credit, individuals must consider many factors. The considerations are often situation-specific and they are often subject to different interpretations by different prospective borrowers. The underlying question in each case is whether the advantages of using credit would outweigh the disadvantages. In this lesson, the students address that question in an examination of four hypothetical cases, acting as financial advisors to clients considering the use of credit.
This lesson explains what a credit report is and how to read one. To learn about credit reports, the students play the role of loan officers, reviewing excerpts from the credit reports and credit scores of loan applicants. They evaluate each applicant's credit history and use the information to determine whether to grant the loan requested.
To compare the cost of different loans, students must understand finance charges and interest rates. In this lesson, the students learn how to compute finance charges, how to differentiate between add-on and annual percentage rates, and how the annual percentage rate and loan repayment period affect the cost of a loan.
In 2007, nearly three-fourths of all U.S. families had at least one credit card. According to the Federal Reserve, 46 percent of families carried a balance on their cards. The median balance carried was $3,000. Americans are obviously in love with their credit cards, but they are not always well informed about them. They may not know that all credit cards are not created equal. The first part of this lesson emphasizes that credit cards differ from one another in terms of annual fees, annual percentage rates, grace periods, and credit limits. The second part shows students how to read a credit card statement so that they can see the real cost of charging goods and services.
In this lesson, the students use a computer loan calculator to determine the monthly payment on different mortgage loans. Understanding how to use computer loan calculators is very important for mortgage calculations. There are many loan calculators on the Internet; many software packages, such as Quicken, also provide loan calculators.
Wise consumers shop for credit just as they might shop for a car or a computer. In this lesson, to begin learning the skills needed in shopping for credit, the students fill out a credit-comparison chart for a hypothetical auto loan. Then, using the same techniques, they shop online for a loan. Finally, they compare the cost of the same loan at various local lending institutions. In the course of these inquiries, they also take account of costs of automobile ownership over and above the purchase price and credit cost.
This lesson provides an overview of legal protection for those who use consumer credit. It stresses federal laws designed to protect consumers in the case of certain problems arising from credit transactions. The applicable laws include the Truth in Lending Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.
While most credit transactions are completely legal, there are some that are not. This lesson introduces scams and schemes, including identify theft, loan scams, and credit-repair loans. The lesson also identifies legal but high-cost credit practices, such as payday loans and rent-to-own plans.
This lesson examines the benefits and opportunity cost of spending and saving. The students learn how compound interest makes savings grow. Compounding provides an incentive to save and invest early. The benefits of saving and investing when you are young can increase substantially over time when funds are allowed to compound.
Risk is inherent in all investments. Some risks are ones investors cannot control. Other risks can be managed. The key is to develop a risk-reward ratio with which you are comfortable. The greater the risk, the higher the potential reward. Given that relationship, there is no free lunch in investing. Investors who choose low risk may earn meager returns. Investors who seek higher returns through high-risk investments may suffer big losses. In this lesson, the students learn about five types of risk, and they compare the risks and rewards associated with several frequently-used investment vehicles. The lesson provides an overview of the modern investment world.
This lesson provides an overview of basic investment options; it also introduces certain investment strategies. The lesson culminates with an activity that can be used to learn or review key economic and financial terms.