Teaching Financial Responsibility to Students

If your experience in school was anything like mine, you probably learned a lot of things: the periodic table of elements, the Pythagorean Theorem, the prologue to Romeo and Juliette, George Washington’s birthplace, and so on. But it’s likely that the only lesson you had on budgeting was in civics class when you learned how the U.S. passes a budget. Schools across the nation are trying to remedy this problem by teaching financial responsibility to students. In fact, schools in Fairfax County, such as Oakton High School are ahead of the national curve offering classes such as Economics and Personal Finance.

But what exactly is financial responsibility, how can parents help their children learn it from an early age, and what tools are out there to make learning it interactive for students?

PBS defines financial literacy as, “more than just being able to balance a checkbook, compare prices or get a job. It also includes skills like long-term vision and planning for the future, and the discipline to use those skills every day.” Following a mandate by the General Assembly of Virginia in 2009, students across the state are required to take a personal finance class in high school. According to the Washington Post, the curriculum for this class includes, “Learning about buying a car, renting an apartment, handling student loans, understanding the stock market, and more.”

This class is filling a gap for many students, but according to financial literacy specialist Annamaria Lusardi, head of the Global Center for Financial Literacy and professor of economics and accountancy at the George Washington School of Business, it’s best for parents to start small, early on with their children. For example, before a teenager can understand credit cards, they need to understand that plastic is not cash but a loan that will need to be repaid with interest if not repaid on time. By teaching these lessons with students early on, the larger financial ideas are easier to understand later down the line.

Old fashioned board games, such as Monopoly or PayDay are a great way to get children thinking about money early. There are also a number of interactive, web-based games that target students of different ages to teach them economic principals. Here are some of our favorite computer-based programs:

For elementary students:



Moneyville is an interactive game targeted at teaching younger students the basic principles of saving, spending, credit, and so on. The game takes place in the town of Moneyville, where students are able to create an avatar and have their own customizable room. By completing work around the town, students are able to save money that they can spend in Miss Penny’s shop (items to add to their room or closet). They are also able to help the magical wizard with his budgeting spells, and if they are older help a family budget for a month. The game gives students consistent rewards and is interlaced with riddles and mind problems.

For secondary students:

Gen I Revolution

Gen I Revolution

If your student is a fan of The Hunger Games or the Divergent series he or she will love Gen I Revolution. The game takes place in a dystopian society and the player acts as an agent, going on mission, helping the target deal with different economic struggles. The game covers retirement saving, credit vs. debit, student loans, and many economic principles. Throughout the game students can take quizzes on different financial strategies and terms that help advance their character through the game. The game can be played on a team basis or individually.


Financial Football

For students who are avid sports fans, financial football offers the opportunity to brush up on football knowledge as well as financial literacy. The game created by the NFL and Visa, offers three different age ranges Rookie (11-14), Pro (14-18), and Legend (18+). The game allows students to choose the two teams playing against each other, participate in the coin toss, and chose from offensive and defensive plays. Between each play the player is asked a financial question, which influences the outcome of the chosen football play. The site has lessons available and is highly interactive.