In June, Governor Whitmer signed a bipartisan bill requiring Michigan high school students to take some sort of high school financial literacy course. The new requirement will start with ninth graders in 2024.
Michigan is now one of the few states that requires high school students to learn about finances. However, students have already sought their own education, including through summer courses, so they are better prepared for life after school.
Western Michigan University hosts a financial literacy summer course called Dollars and Sense where, for a week, students can learn what they need to know to succeed financially.
“Retirement planning, budgeting, insurance, college, financing,” said Eldon McCabe, associate program director at WMU’s Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness.
McCabe taught the Dollars and Sense course in Grand Rapids, although the camp is offered free of charge at several locations in West Michigan for students under the Gear-Up program.
However, McCabe says teaching high school kids everything they need to know about finances in a week is no easy task.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “There’s so much to cover.”
From 2024, students will be able to acquire these skills directly in the classroom. The new financial literacy requirement could satisfy half a credit of the four-credit math requirement, two-credit non-English language requirement, or one-credit arts requirement visual, show or applied. The course may also be completed as part of an approved vocational and technical training program.
“I think it’s great. I think it should have been needed a long time ago,” McCabe said.
Alexsandra Cortez-Torres, 15, attended the money camp because she wants to grow her new crochet business.
“It’s something for my future, my career. I really want to do something with business,” said the young student.
She knew nothing about savings or business and wanted those skills for reasons bigger than herself.
“I’m getting to the point where I have to start helping my mum because I don’t have a father figure. So I have to start helping her with the bills. That’s why I have to start saving now to try to help him,” Cortez-Torres said.
And there are things all young adults and students can do right now to set themselves up for financial success:
– Start saving early and create an emergency savings account
– Set up a retirement plan, the sooner the better
– Consider opening a debit or credit card with the help of a parent or guardian, but make sure all parties are responsible for this card so it does not negatively affect the rating anyone’s credit
– Learn to budget early
There are also online resources to help you with your savings plans, including a free savings calculator that shows you how much you need to save per month to reach your goals.
Cortez-Torres’ crochet business is taking off and the young entrepreneur hopes to expand in the future. She will be at “Boss Fest” in Grand Rapids at 341 Hall Street from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 10, showcasing her wares in a pop-up shop.