Students looking toward the future after graduation should remember to learn about finances.
One program working to help students do this is the Banzai program. The online program teaches financial literacy to high school students in addition to their normal curriculum. It uses real life simulations to demonstrate the complexity of paying bills, everyday expenses and saving money in an approachable and effective way.
Kalsee Credit Union sponsored Banzai in the Kalamazoo County area, which will allow teachers to provide the program to students for free.
“Once the students get engaged in the program, they like it. It offers real life scenarios that we can all relate to,” said Sue Mills, a Kalamazoo Central High School teacher who has used Banzai in the classroom for about five years.
Through the program, students earn income, pay rent and bills and keep a checkbook for transactions. This gives students a chance to understand what their life will be like in a few years, Mills said.
“Sometimes the students can’t believe how expensive life gets,” said Lori Pelton, a Schoolcraft High School teacher who has used Banzai for the last three years. “Financial literacy lessons help these kids grapple with the adult choices they already face as teenagers.”
Both teachers emphasized that teaching financial literacy in schools is very valuable to students and helps them have a successful future.
Mills worked in banking and finance for 26 years before teaching. She said that even many adults struggle with the concepts of financing and paying bills.
“I think financial literacy should be a required high school class,” Mills said. “If high school students had to take a financial literacy class, it might help more people learn the importance of savings, paying themselves first and planning for their future.”
The Banzai program teaches students effectively, Pelton said.
“Students are put in a situation where they enter deposits and withdrawals that would typically be in the life of a teenager,” she said.
Banzai helps teachers offer their high school students an understanding of the difficulty of financing, Pelton said.
“I view Banzai as a great introduction to their financial responsibilities and future,” Mills said. “Kalsee Credit Union has been very generous to us. They sponsor the program and provide speakers to our classes.”
“This program shows students that saving a little bit from each paycheck is more important than buying the latest-greatest technology or spending it on fast-food,” Pelton said.
Learning to effectively save money and seeing the effects of it through the program emphasizes the importance of smart decisions to students.
“It is very difficult to succeed when you live from paycheck to paycheck and have no savings,” Mills said.