When Kathy Jarman’s personal finance students become millionaires, she has a simple request.
“I always joke with my students, ‘If you guys practice this, by the time you’re in your forties you will be millionaires and you need to come back and take me to lunch—and we’re not going to McDonald’s.’”
For the past seven years, Mrs. Jarman has been sowing the seeds of money smarts into her juniors and seniors at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City, Missouri. She’s using Dave Ramsey’s high school curriculum, Foundations in Personal Finance, to teach kids simple but life-changing concepts like budgeting, bargain shopping, graduating college without debt, and building wealth.
“I love my other classes, but personal finance really is my favorite class because it doesn’t matter if students make $30,000 or $300,000—they’ve got to know how to manage it,” she says. “And it’s exciting when they start getting it.”
Catching on early
After only two months in her class, one of Kathy’s students caught the investing bug and began funneling her high school income into a mutual fund. That was back in 2012. Since then, she’s continued an automatic investment every month and has earned an impressive 17% return on her money!
While hunting for her first home, another former student schooled her well-meaning mom on mortgages. After Mom suggested a 30-year loan, the homeowner-to-be sent her mom a picture from her Foundations workbook explaining how much a buyer can save with a 15-year mortgage.
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They’re definitely getting it. And their teacher couldn’t be more proud.
Learning by teaching
Kathy practices what she preaches. As of June, she and her husband Bob (shown in picture above) are completely debt-free—including the house. But even finance teachers make mistakes. And Kathy still remembers hers from nearly 10 years ago.
Even after learning Dave Ramsey’s financial principles, the couple bought a van on payments. But, Kathy says, “After teaching Foundations for two semesters, I came home to my husband and said, ‘We are idiots. We need to get this van paid off in a hurry. How can I teach students the error of buying cars with loans when we have a loan on our van?’”
They bumped up their payments, paid off the van within a year, and started a sinking fund to save up for vehicles before they buy.
Simulating the real world
Kathy likes to simulate real-world issues like car loans and house payments in the safety of the classroom setting. So she puts her students into “families,” gives each group an income, and asks them to purchase everyday necessities like a vehicle, insurance, childcare and groceries.
As you can imagine, some of the families are struggling by the end of the experiment. That’s when Kathy introduces a way for students to pay off their debts and earn some additional income. She calls it Market Day—and the kids love it.
“Each family decides on something to sell on Market Day—usually food of some kind,” she says. “For every 10 cents they make, they get $25 in their family budget.”
Afterwards, Kathy’s students donate their actual proceeds to the Central Missouri Honor Flight program, which sends veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam to Washington, D.C., for a full day of VIP treatment and monument visits.
Kathy wants her students to see that winning with money isn’t about hoarding wealth—it’s about leaving a lasting legacy that will in some way change the world around them.
Learn more about Foundations in Personal Finance or be connected to a Curriculum Advisor.
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