How prepared are our daughters for their financial future? That is a question that has bothered me for decades. As a Bais Yaakov high school mechaneches and administrator, I have long felt that girls’ education can be enriched by preparing them for the roles they will play, iy”H, as wives, mothers and grandmothers down the road. Regardless of whether a frum girl becomes a kollel wife, a professional, an entrepreneur or a full-time homemaker, she needs to be prepared for what lies ahead financially. How should she manage her money or lack thereof? How can she save for a rainy day? Should she have life insurance? What about taxes?
Enter the Financial Literacy course offered at Shevach High School in Kew Gardens Hills, New York.
At the very least, it is the responsibility of our schools to teach teenagers the value of day-to-day financial planning. Today’s high schools are the vehicle to prepare tomorrow’s adults. They need to know the seven fundamental skills that support informed decision-making in line with the values of a frum household. These include: earning, spending, sharing, saving, investing, borrowing and protecting the family. Our young people need to understand deposits and withdrawals, and bottom-line income/debt ratios. They have to be able to identify fixed expenses and fluctuating expenses. When is it okay to borrow money? What is the difference between a credit card and a debit card?
When I taught this course recently, I asked the girls if they knew the advantage of having a credit card. They responded, of course, that a card allows you to spend money you don’t have at the moment. But when I asked them about the disadvantages of using a credit card, fewer were able to say that when the bill comes, you have to pay it—or else! With interest rates sometimes as high as 27 percent, that can hurt.
When the students started asking questions that were on their minds, it became evident to me that the classes really spoke to them. Are there fees for banking? What happens if you write a check and there’s no money behind it in the bank? What if you receive a check like that? Does cash income have to be claimed as income? Why do I need insurance if I am young and healthy, baruch Hashem? Why were taxes deducted from my Youth Corps check last summer?
The students learned about overdraft privileges, bounced checks, money market accounts, Social Security deductions, student loans and mortgages. I delineated the difference between what one wants and what one needs. Using a pie chart to teach budgeting, I showed the girls that some expenses are unavoidable, others are occasional, and still others are frivolous. Then, of course, there are always the expenses from left field. Think mechanic and dentist. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a rainy-day “envelope” for that?