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Financial Literacy for Everyone

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September 8, 2017

Jennifer Jordan

Madeira High School
Cincinnati, Ohio

Personal finance educator Jennifer Jordan believes that the root of money management lies in psychology. “A lot of peoples’ issues with money are psychological and based on emotion,” explains Jennifer. She teaches her students how to have power over their money — not the other way around.

Students at Madeira High School are offered Jennifer’s personal finance class both for high school credit and college credit. The bulk of Jennifer’s curriculum is comprised of budgeting, investing, mutual funds, bonds, stocks, debt and fraud. In the beginning of the 18-week period, students start with basic personal finance principles, such as delayed gratification.

Jennifer Jordan

Jennifer’s students have won scholarships in the H&R Block Budget Challenge over the past three years.

The questions she poses to students are simple: How many days could you go without rewearing a shirt? “I ask them what the 10 dollars they spend on another t-shirt could amount to in the future. Adding it to savings, to an emergency fund, etc.”

Teaching wasn’t always the end goal for Jennifer. She was working at Fifth Third Bank while attending college as a marketing major, eventually taking a semester off and working full-time. It was then that she realized she may be pursuing the wrong career. “I started working with women whose husbands had passed away,” explains Jennifer. “They couldn’t write a check. They had no concept of money. ‘My husband did that,’ they’d say.”

Jennifer Jordan

Madeira High School Students won the H&R Block Budget Challenge and were awarded $2,500.

She describes it as a “perfect storm” in her life. She wanted to combine her interest in business with her passion for helping others. “We all look up to teachers,” she says. “Some of our first role models are teachers.” It took her two and a half years to finish her MBA in Business Education. Her first teaching job was at Hamilton High School for four years before applying to Madeira High School, where she works now. She has just started her 23rd year of teaching.

Jennifer’s curriculum transcends the traditional teach-from-the-textbook model. She designed a career project, which entails an in-depth investigation into a potential job. After researching a career, students find an apartment, pick a car, estimate future household expenses, create a 2-week menu, a grocery list, and make tough decisions to balance a zero-based balanced budget. “After taxes, that $60,000 per year really isn’t $5,000 a month. It’s closer $2,600,” she says.

Jennifer Jordan

Madeira High School students have participated in the Ohio Personal Finance Challenge for the past six years.

Madeira School District has participated in student finance challenges that have created scholarship opportunities for students. “H&R Block sponsoring the Budget Challenge was a game changer for hundreds of thousands of kids across the U.S.,” Jennifer explains. Essentially a cash management simulation, students are challenged to balance a checkbook, pay bills, and manage money over a period of time. “They learn so much whether or not they win. Maybe they made a mistake — they misread a bill. Or had to deal with unexpected events, like a car accident.”

The H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation covers everything from investing, to taxes, to paying bills on time. The simulation encourages students to learn the nuances of money management via positive reinforcement — specifically scholarships. “Over the last 3 years, I’ve had 23 kids earn $20,000 each towards college,” noting the nearly half a million dollars in scholarships her students have won.

Jennifer Jordan

Madeira High School students participated in the Ohio Personal Finance Challenge.

Jennifer also has students participate in the Ohio Personal Finance Challenge, where Madeira High School has swept the state competition, and moved on to represent the State of Ohio at the National Personal Finance Challenge for the last 6 years. In addition, students participate in an online stock market game. Jennifer incorporates news stories and YouTube videos on current topics, involving students with real-life issues. She is constantly looking for new and engaging ways to make her curriculum relevant beyond the classroom walls.

What sets Madeira High School apart is that every student is required to take a semester of financial literacy as a graduation requirement. “The school board made the decision and it’s really had a positive impact on our students,” explains Jennifer. “I have a mountain of support from the community, the staff and the administration. They’re giving these kids a solid opportunity to learn before they leave our school, before they get into debt.”

Jennifer Jordan

Students represented the State of Ohio at the National Personal Finance Challenge.

Another game changer to stay connected and engaged with students is social media. Through LinkedIn and Facebook, her relationships with students have stood the test of time. “My relationships with the kids are really important even after they graduate,” she says. “It’s really all about the students. I don’t want them to worry about money. Their money should work for them.”

Part of helping students build strong financial futures is developing new initiatives for the school’s personal finance program. Jennifer’s next educational venture is to start a “Millionaire’s Club,” for high school seniors to meet monthly to discuss personal finance goals, and ultimately enter regional finance competitions. She’s also working on connecting upperclassmen to younger students for a mentorship program at the local elementary school.

Jennifer Jordan

Students excelled at the Ohio Personal Finance Challenge, where they moved on to Nationals.

Jennifer believes that teaching kids financial literacy when they are young is a key to later success. Educating teachers on the best methods to deliver content with flexibility and dedication will also foster a positive learning environment for young minds. “Your best teachers are the ones who are living by what they’re telling the kids to do,” says Jennifer.

Practical Money Skills would like to commend Jennifer Jordan on her ongoing efforts and commitment to financial literacy at Madeira High School.

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