We spend our lives learning, failing and trying again when it comes to money. Most of us are able to get to a place where we can make it work. There are different advantages, various mistakes. How we get to that place of financial understanding can be gradual and a bit of a mystery, kind of like compound interest.
Teenagers meet money at the crossroads of their own adulthood. So, in teaching about financial literacy, we have a fascinating view of what teenagers have found out, were never taught, don’t quite get and would love more information on.
Our hundreds of Money Sense classes run throughout the school year. On Wednesday, we held our first Money Sense lesson at Transition High School, located in a commercial strip along North Avenue near Fond du Lac Avenue. Transition is part of Milwaukee Public Schools and works with students returning from expulsion or incarceration on specialized learning plans and personal growth. The school has a wide-open floor plan with students bouncing between computers and side meeting rooms of varying size for certain classes or presentations. Our Money Sense lesson was in a meeting room with high ceilings, made larger by the monumental historical figures and artists on posters that covered every inch of the walls – Martin Luther King Jr., Huey Newton, Public Enemy, characters from “The Wire”. On a frozen day outdoors, the student body inside Transition was a welcome pocket of activity.
As the class started, students began to open up – some more than others – about their understanding of money. One obvious interaction they have with cash comes from those first jobs. Tramond helps out at a day care. Stan has a job in fast food and concessions at Miller Park. Damari, 17, peering at the paycheck example on the projector screen during the classroom exercise, said: “I need to get a job.”
Damari doesn’t have a job right now. He does, on the other hand, have a hankering for burgers and French fries. This hunger has taken a bite out of his pocketbook. In talking over with the whole class about spending habits, Damari made an instant connection to his fast food finances.
“I can eliminate irrelevant expenses. Fast food could be one thing