For the last few weeks, Middle Schoolers and Launchpadders have been hard at work on a Personal Finance Quest, preparing to thrive in the real world. Our quest goes far beyond delivering a few basic financial tools and skills, delving deeply into the helpful and destructive ways money can influence our lives.
We started by investigating the meaning of money for each person. Is money a proxy for security, love, power or merely a way of keeping score?
Next Eagles had to research the “ten hardest financial decisions you’ll face” and pair off in teams, preparing for a live end of session debate. We also started keeping detailed expense logs and began to learn to use spreadsheets like Google Sheets for financial projections.
Week Two focused on income: choosing three possible jobs and looking up salary distributions on Salary.com. Eagles couldn’t simply choose a high paying job. Each had to convince semi-hostile panelists he or she could excel at the position. Even if an Eagle were hired, the panel could set a high or low spot on the salary distribution, depending on the power of the pitch.
Week Three was spent on expenses, as Eagles used the internet to pick and price automobiles, houses, insurance, colleges and the other financial decisions he or she would face at age twenty five. Self-taught lessons in Google Sheets became more difficult, requiring formulas, sorting and other complex operations, with only the internet as a teaching tool.
Preparation continued for the Big Financial Question Debate, with work on inductive and deductive arguments; using ethos, pathos and logos to make more compelling points and drafting, critique and revision of opening statements, rebuttals and closing.
Some of the comments from the quest have been priceless:
- “What do you mean I have to pay taxes? I already spent my salary.”
- “It costs how much to go to college?”
- “If my parents knew how much it cost to raise a child, I might not be here.”
On Friday, Eagles practiced the art of haggling – asking for a discount with “Is that the best you can do?” –then spread throughout the city to haggle with unsuspecting merchants. Almost every Eagle achieved at least 40% off list price, and the winning team averaged over 81% in discounts from retail.
The final victory – one Acton Academy parent who read the preparatory material for the outing decided to give it a try and asked: “Is that the best you can do?”
She received a $2000 discount just for having the courage to ask question!