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Teaching Financial Literacy

Posted: April 8, 2020

By Rossana Villaflor, Former Overcoming Obstacles Student / K-8 Educator

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In this world of uncertainty, learning the essential skills for managing a budget goes a long way. When living with my grandparents in the Philippines, I recall my grandmother carefully planning our meals ahead of time to ensure everyone in our household would be able to eat. Like so many families today, my grandmother had to make each penny count. Although our meals were simple, she cooked with love, and I remember our food always tasted delicious.

By the time I was living in the U.S., I couldn’t wait to get my first job, earn a paycheck, and give my earnings to my mother. Growing up, I’ve watched my mother work up to three jobs to pay the rent, and to be able to afford my siblings and me the essentials for school and a decent life. It seemed like she would work, sleep, eat, and work again. She always came home exhausted, having very little time to talk or ask about our day, but it was okay. On rare occasions, our quality time consisted of buying groceries together and shopping for school supplies and clothes. Witnessing how hard my mother worked to earn a living and raise a family had a profound impact on me. From her example, I learned the value of sacrifice, hard work, and dedication.

At 14-years-old, I received my working papers signed by my school counselor and began working part-time in my city’s courthouse filing papers and delivering documents to court meetings. The moment I cashed my first paycheck and gave my earnings to my mother, I was elated – I felt as proud as if I had won a marathon. But, that was only the beginning of my path to learning about earning and spending money. As I grew older, the pressure of balancing my earnings with my expenses became more apparent and, at times, so overwhelming.

In high school, my Overcoming Obstacles teacher taught life skills lessons from the modules “Managing Finances” and “On Your Own” to help my class prepare for adult responsibilities, such as the “Making A Budget” lesson. These lessons continue to resonate in my daily decisions and how I manage my bills and spending. No adult can escape the challenges of managing finances and creating a budget. As an educator, I think it’s never too early – nor too late – to teach young people financial literacy, as well as financial responsibility. No young person should have to wait until they are drowning in debt to understand how to manage their personal finances. Yes, financial literacy can be overwhelming and intimidating, especially when one is feeling the pressure of economic challenges.

With Overcoming Obstacles, it only takes 2-3 minutes to get the conversation started with your student. This short conversation could lead to about 20 more minutes of learning about checks, earning money, and making a budget. And, the next day, you can work together on creating a personal budget. Teaching our children the financial skills to empower themselves doesn’t have to be painful or a long-winded lecture. Using the visual handouts and activity sheets in the curriculum is a great way to talk about the importance of creating a budget. This lesson can shape the way they live as adults, and may ultimately have an impact on the way they raise their children and the next generation after.

The great need to learn and practice budgeting skills also comes with the sad reality that many families will face difficulty in making ends meet due to the current health crisis. But no one should ever have to go to bed hungry. Public school districts, such as the New York City Public Schools and Jersey City Public Schools, have made meals available for pick-up. Families can also contact their school’s social worker for more information on resources available to them.


Overcoming Obstacles offers hundreds of K-12 life skills lessons designed to prepare young people for all of the challenges life presents. It’s free now and forever and available for download by creating an account at overcomingobstacles.org.

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