Fredonia High School class teaches personal finance skills

Essential experience

Laura Depue teaches a Foundations in Personal Finance class to Fredonia High School seniors.

Fredonia High School seniors are learning how to balance checkbooks, save up for purchases and resist debt in a new class sponsored by a personal finance expert.

The elective course Foundations in Personal Finance operates off a curriculum developed by Dave Ramsey — a millionaire who lost everything due to bad personal financial practices, but cleaned things up and is now a millionaire again.

“So far we’ve been talking about how their values determine what they want to spend their money on,” said Laura Depue, teacher of the class, during its session on Thursday. “We’ve discussed needs versus wants and setting goals. Right now they’re talking about smart goals — so that they have a specific plan in mind to budget for that future goal they might have.”

Depue said the class meets every other day for 80 minutes and was in its sixth session Thursday. It has also discussed setting aside money for emergencies, investment opportunities and how insurance works. They will be doing a simulation in which they have to pay rent and other bills while saving money for a 401(k) account.

In Thursday’s class, Depue discussed the concept of saving up for a big-ticket item such as a car or a furniture set. “Save up on a down payment rather than blow it all on entertainment,” she said.

Dave Ramsey, the entrepreneur who created the Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum, speaks in a film shown to Fredonia High School students taking the class.

The teacher added that such a savings goal should have a time frame: “If you don’t have a time this could take two years, five years, 10 years, we don’t know.”

Depue also showed the class a video of Ramsey introducing himself. He said one of the ways he got out of bankruptcy was, “I started talking to old people. Rich, old people who had kept their money.” He said it’s his life’s calling to help people learn how to handle money and added, “Common sense is marketable. It’s not that common anymore.”

The class is funded through a donation by the Jackson Charitable Foundation to Ramsey’s company, Ramsey Education. Jackson’s $500,000 donation is helping facilitate the class at 250 schools around the country, including Fredonia.

“We’re learning skills in here I know I’m going to use in the real world when I get out,” said Gabe Persch, a student in the class. “And that’s not just in college either, that’s when I’m living on my own. These are skills that I’ll be using the rest of my life, whereas something like trigonometry, maybe I’ll forget that in five years.”

Persch concluded, “I wish everyone would take this class. You can take away stuff from this class that you will use outside of this classroom.”

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