SUPERIOR – Beginning with the class of 2028, next year’s freshmen, Wisconsin students must take a half credit in financial literacy to graduate.
When Gov. Tony Evers’ bipartisan financial literacy bill will become law in December, Superior High School business information technology instructor Donna Stubbe is delighted.
“I am very excited. I went home and celebrated that night,” he said.
Stubbe teaches a personal finance course at SHS. Each year, he supervises approximately 140 students in the one-semester course, which is open to grades 10-12. It provides half credit in SHS mathematics. If students pass with a C or better, Stubbe said, they also earn three college credits from Northwood Technical College that can be transferred to most four-year universities.
“Because many schools now require a personal finance course,” Stubbe said.
According to the S upior School District’s change table, a grade point average of 2 to 2.49 would be equivalent to a C.
The Dave Ramsey curriculum taught by Stubbe is based on five foundations, from having an emergency fund and staying debt-free to paying cash for things like a car or college. It uses a zero-based budgeting method where every dollar has a name.
“It’s hard now to get ahead in life and you don’t have enough income,” Stubbe said. “But if you realize that you can make your money grow for you, instead of paying interest, and have no debt, you can retire, and you can retire at a young age.”
The final task involves creating a life plan that includes the student’s personal, career, financial and retirement goals into one package from age 18 to retirement.
“Then they start breaking it down into what their expenses look like in that period and what their income looks like,” Stubbe said.
It’s not just students who learn from the course.
“After my first year of teaching Dave Ramsey, I can say that my only debt is the house payment,” said the teacher. “Because I never know how much you actually pay for using borrowed money in the long run.”
Finance when the future is ‘in your face’
Tanner Smith, who finished his senior year at SHS Jan. 19, took a personal finance course as a junior.
“I chose to do math credit so I could graduate early this year,” said Smith, who plans to start a plumbing apprenticeship when he turns 18.
Although he was initially unhappy with the demanding course, it grew on him.
“Those are skills I have to learn, even if I don’t like learning them,” Smith said.
His biggest takeaway is the importance of investing and a working knowledge of insurance.
“And also basic financial skills like saving, how to write a check, proper money management, how insurance works, like health care insurance and deductibles and premiums and everything ,” Smith said. “Useful skills that anyone should have, especially in adulthood.”
The new graduate is already focusing on building healthy financial habits.
“I refuse to get a credit card for any reason,” Smith said. “I have had a debit card for the past two years; I manage a savings account, checking account. When I turn 18 I plan to invest in two mutual funds.”
Whatever curriculum is chosen, Smith said it will have the greatest impact if it is taken when, as a senior, the future is “in your face.”
“I would say wait until your senior year so you can absorb it better and you’re more focused on it because you’re probably paying more of your own bills at that point,” Smith said.
Wisconsin is the 24th state to require a standalone financial literacy course for graduation, according to the nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance. The nonprofit’s mission is to see all high school students in the US required to take at least one semester of financial literacy by 2030. The Wisconsin bill requires the course to include specific topics, but what class looks unfinished. .
“We have a lot of planning to do before we know that,” said Crystal Hintzman, director of curriculum and instruction for the School District of Superior.
The first step will take place in February with the formation of a small committee to discuss logistics, such as what policies regarding graduation requirements should be revised and who will be part of the curriculum planning process.
“Furthermore, we need to wait for more detailed information about this requirement from the DPI (Department of Public Instruction) and use that information in our planning,” Hintzman said.