The consumer education movement aims to teach people how to seek out, use and evaluate consumer information so that they can improve their ability to purchase or consume the products and services they deem most likely to enhance their well-being. It seeks to teach consumers how to interact in the marketplace in a way that allows them to make the best consumption choices for themselves, given their values and lifestyles. (p. 33)                                              Bloom  & Silver, Harvard Business Review, 1976

In 2006, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) published: “Taking Ownership of the Future: National Strategy for Financial Literacy,” which defined the purpose of financial literacy as to: “empower consumers to be better shoppers” (p. v), to help deal with a “market place that is constantly changing” and to “understand and select the products and services that best suit their needs” (p. vii).

Learning to Read the fine Print: We have to find ways to help students learn to care about the details – learn to ask questions, learn to think it’s worth investigating financial agreements

Show Students the Fine Print (see examples below):

  • Let them read it
  • Let them make what sense they can of it
  • Let them ask questions about it and explore outcomes

Credit Card Examples:

APR or “annual percentage rate” is an annualized interest rate. Different APRs may apply to different balances on your account, such as your purchase balance or your cash advance balance. We use the APR that applies to each balance to calculate the interest that you owe us on the account.

The bill we send you will state your due date and the minimum amount that you must pay us by that date. This amount is your minimum payment. If you do not pay the minimum payment by the due date, we may charge you a late payment fee. You will also be in breach of the contract.

You may pay all or part of your account balance at any time. However, for each bill, you must pay at least the minimum payment by the due date stated on that bill.

Sample problem from the Math Forum’s Financial Education focus:

Choosing Charity

In the wake of the recent tsunami, a company decided to donate to a disaster relief fund. The company started by pledging a certain amount of money. To encourage their 60 employees to make individual contributions, the company pledged to also donate an additional fixed amount for each employee who made a personal donation to the fund.

The company treasurer determined that if one-third of the employees chose to make a donation, the company’s part of the total donation would be $7000. If 50% of the employees donated, the company’s part of the total donation would be $7750.

Find an equation that expresses the company’s part of the total donation in terms of the number of employees who donate.

If every employee chose to donate, what would the company’s part of the total donation be?

If the company’s part was $8875, what percent of the employees chose to make personal donations?

Tools to Start Conversations & Develop the Practices of Financial Decision Making:

Living Wage Calculator

Council for Economic Education’s National Standards for Financial Literacy

CFPB’s Credit Card Contract Definitions

How long will it take to pay off my credit cards

True Cost to Own a Car

What is my employee total compensation package worth?

National Endowment for Financial Education — resources for educators, check out the High School materials

Charity Navigator