Summer is an exciting time when many young people start their first job and begin collecting a regular paycheck. A summer job presents the opportunity for teenagers to learn new job skills, develop confidence and expand their social circles. It’s also the perfect time to start building their personal finance skills.

“For young people, particularly those between the ages of 16-24 who may be entering the workforce for the first time, developing good money management skills is critical,” writes Desmond Brown of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Without the necessary financial knowledge and skills, many will not develop money management habits, trapping them in a future with limited savings, high debt, or compromised credit.”

Throughout June, July and August, public libraries and school libraries can offer financial literacy courses that specifically target high school students who want to learn how to manage their summer job money effectively.

Personal Finance Topics for Teens

A summer financial literacy course for high school students should cover a wide range of personal finance topics to equip them with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to make good decisions and develop responsible habits around money.

First, begin with the basics. Students should learn how to create a budget, track expenses, plan for emergencies, and differentiate between needs and wants. Those moving away from home and into a college dorm or apartment will want to learn how to optimize their food and entertainment budgets! If they are going to be living with roommates, they’ll want to set up ground rules for budgeting in advance to avoid tensions later.

Teaching teens and young adults the importance of saving their money early on can have a profound impact on their financial well-being. A financial literacy course should cover the different types of bank accounts offered by financial institutions, bank account fees, online banking versus conventional banking, and types of interest. Other topics might also include saving for college, a trip, or a big purchase such as a car.

Understanding Credit and Debt
Credit cards and loans are ubiquitous today, so it is vital for students to understand how credit works and the potential consequences of debt. A financial literacy course for high school students should cover topics such as how credit scores work, interest rates, paying for higher education, and debt consolidation. Students should also learn about the implications of debt, including student loans and monthly rent, as well as strategies for managing and minimizing debt.

Work and Taxes
When young people start their first job, it’s important that they understand how taxes work. This includes knowing how to fill out the W-4 form required for employment and how to track and report gratuity and tips to the IRS. Students should also know how to navigate the “gig” economy since many of the jobs available today — such as dog walking, delivering food and mowing lawns — are flexible, short-term or temporary.

Protecting Money
Once young people start making money, it’s important they know how to keep it safe. A financial literacy course for students should include a section on planning for emergencies. This includes having an emergency fund set aside for unexpected expenses, knowing what to do if they lose a credit card, and protecting themselves from credit card fraud and identity theft.

Ready-Made Financial Literacy Curriculum

For schools and public libraries that don’t have a staff member to facilitate a summer financial literacy course or learning series, offering a self-paced learning option is a great alternative.

FinancialFit, an e-learning resource from EBSCO, offers short, easy-to-understand personal finance lessons, videos and interactive tools to help teens to make smart, informed financial decisions. Microlessons can be completed in under five minutes each, and many of the personal finance topics are pertinent to teens and young adults (such as those mentioned above). FinancialFit also includes worksheets, checklists and a glossary containing more than 700 financial terms. A complete list of FinancialFit lessons and topics is also available for download.

Additional Resources

  • helps youth and adults learn to manage their money, understand credit, identify scams and prevent theft.
  • Financial Literacy Activities, from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are designed to be flexible and easy to implement in the classroom.
  • How Money Smart Are You? is a suite of 14 games based on the FDIC’s award-winning MoneySmart program. The games, which are available in English and Spanish, help users learn how to earn, spend, save, borrow and protect their money.
  • JumpStart Reality Check is a survey that helps youth understand how much money they’ll need to earn to support the lifestyle they want.
  • Money as You Grow: Help for parents and caregivers offers practical, age-appropriate activities and conversation starters to help parents and caregivers encourage their kids to develop positive financial knowledge, skills, habits and attitudes.
  • NextGen Personal Finance offers free high school financial literacy curriculum units containing lesson plans, interactive resources, answer keys and assessments. These require a teacher/instructor to lead.

Financial literacy is an indispensable life skill. Libraries can give students a solid foundation in personal finance by offering a summer learning series on budgeting, saving, investing, understanding credit, managing debt, navigating work life and protecting what they earn. By increasing financial literacy among students, libraries can empower a new generation of workers to make informed decisions, achieve their goals and create a brighter financial future.

This summer, increase financial literacy among young people in your community.

Add FinancialFit, a self-paced e-learning platform, to your library collection.