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For use anytime. Financial education for teen-agers going online

Posted: Thursday, September 21, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) -- If you don't think teen-agers need help learning the ins and outs of personal finance, consider for a moment the case of the $84 pizza.

A young friend of University of Tennessee professor Harold Black deposited some money in her bank account through an ATM machine on a Friday night. The next day, she ordered a pizza and paid for it with a check of $14 -- $12 for the pizza and $2 for a tip for the delivery boy.

Unfortunately, she didn't know that her deposit wouldn't be credited to her account until late Monday. The check bounced, and her cost for the pizza rose to include a $20 bank fee for overdrawing her account, a $20 fee from the pizza place for a returned check and a $30 fee from the collection agency that the pizza place handed the check to.

''The economic ignorance of intelligent people is absolutely astounding,'' Black says. ''People grow up with a checkbook, but never pay any attention to service charges until they write a bad check and then they're astounded when they get hit with a high fee. I guess it's a matter of taking things for granted.''

Black hopes to begin changing that with the new Personal Finance and Financial Planning course he has written for the Washington-based consumer advocacy group Americans for Consumer Education and Competition. The course, which started online this week at www.acecusa.org, is set up so teachers can use it to develop lesson plans for elementary and high school classes.

It's the latest in a series of online personal finance curriculum aids for teachers. And because they're on the Web, they also can be accessed from home by students and their parents.

Black's lesson plans -- which start with writing a budget and managing a checking account, and then progress to borrowing for a car or house and investing -- have links to scores of other Internet sites so teen-agers can get acquainted with online planning tools such as interest rate calculators.

''It's very important to get students up to speed and to develop financial literacy,'' said Gwen Reichbach, executive director of the National Institute for Consumer Education at Eastern Michigan University in Ipsilanti. ''A large portion of students graduating from high school are financially illiterate. That doesn't bode well for our society, or for them as individuals.''

NICE developed a program called Basics of Saving and Investing: A Teaching Guide that can be found at www.fl2001.org, the site run by the Financial Literacy 2001 program that trains teachers to teach personal finance courses, and www.investor.nasd.com/teach. The National Association of Securities Dealers is a cosponsor of the financial literacy program.

NICE's own site, www.nice.emich.edu, offers online mini courses in personal finance, with a special focus on handling credit.

Reichbach notes that there is still a debate over where personal finance should be taught. ''There is a contingent that believes it is not the role of the school, it is the role of the parents,'' she said. ''But many parents aren't doing it -- and even have problems handling money themselves.''

The advantage of the online programs is that teachers, students and parents can get to them easily, says Scott Clegg, senior vice president of marketing at the Chicago-headquartered edgate.com.

Founded by educators and originally known as Copernicus, the company creates customized online learning sites for school districts. But it also has www.edgate.com, which has a series of lessons developed by the Visa USA credit card company that walk consumers through budgeting, banking, credit card borrowing, home and auto loans and saving strategies.

''Educators are very involved in developing the content'' of edgate.com, Clegg said, noting that the company has 15 former school superintendents, principals and teachers on staff.

Another site that has proved attractive to teachers and students is the GE Center for Financial Learning at www.financiallearning.com. Among other things, it has calculators that can be useful in resolving real-life questions, such as whether to rent or buy a house and how much you need to save for college tuition.

End for use anytime.



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