Courses to promote financial literacy

Addressing a shortage of financial education for women, two new courses are scheduled for the 2023- 2024 school year. History teacher Kristen Blevins and Head of Upper School Lisa Culbertson both have designed courses to foster financial literacy.

Blevins’ course, Empowering Women in Financial Literacy , will be available to sophomores through seniors. The main focus will be personal finance, including investing, retirement savings, stocks and bonds, buying a house, insurance and credit cards.

Blevins, who worked in finance before becoming an economics teacher at H0ckaday, was inspired to create the course based both on students’ needs and her own interest in women in business and finance.

“There has been a lot of interest from students over the years since I have been here,” Blevins said. “Even though women have progressed in the workplace, they still don’t have as much confidence in making financial decisions or have enough knowledge about things that they would be interacting with in their personal life.”

As of 2022, a pay gap between men and women in the United States persisted. Media company Bloomberg reported women earned 83.4 cents per each dollar men earned.

Women also lag in financial health, the stability and state of personal finances. A December 2021 survey with the Financial Health Network and SSRS market research firm revealed 20% women were financially healthy compared to 29% of men.

Blevins formulated the course based on topics such as these that students want to know more about. In addition to tailoring content to students’ questions, she plans to bring in sources of knowledge like games and guest speakers to
enhance the course.

“It is really meant to be a hands-on and applicable class,” Blevins said. “I am hoping to bring in different alumnae who work in the industries that we are talking about because I think it is valuable for young people to see women succeed in areas traditionally, and unfortunately, dominated by men.”

Another key piece to the class is inclusivity, not only regarding each student’s level of financial knowledge but also each student’s wealth class, which impacts financial decisions. The class will address issues widely applicable, such as mortgages and insurance.

“We don’t know what everyone’s financial situation is going to be, so we are going to try to understand on a basic level why we need to make these decisions and why these products exist,” Blevins said.

As it did for Blevins, the historical treatment of women regarding finances and a desire for change inspired Culbertson to create her course, Business Finance and Women’s Financial Health. Culbertson has been working with SMU’s Cox Business School in putting the course together.

Citing the lack of financial education in schools nationwide, Culbertson said she hopes to redefine the almost taboo and unapproachable nature of finances for young people.

“I think there’s a systematic approach to finance literacy that we just have not had in the United States for a very long time,” Culbertson said, “and we need to change that.”

The course will include all aspects of business finance, or the management and maximization of a business’ funds through financial planning, analysis and growth.

A necessity to increase the value of a company, business finance concerns economic activities like purchasing assets and materials, and the acquisition of capital funds.

Culbertson’s course also will cover accounting, financial vocabulary and modeling through Excel, differentiating the class from Blevins’ course.

“Generally we’ll be talking about business finance, which is understanding the financial health of a company and how a business manages its money so that it can make decisions,” Culbertson said. “We’ll be doing a lot of analysis and projecting.”

Students will first look at accounting and finance, then study how to make decisions on a corporate level based on this financial information. Both accounting and business finance will allow students to gain widespread knowledge of the financial elements of corporations.

“We’ll also be doing basic managerial accounting, which is like the business side of accounting,” Culbertson said. “Accounting is how money is classified within the organization, while finances are analyzing that classified money to make financial decisions for the company. We’re doing a little bit of both to give students a survey of the basics of how money works within an organization.”

Reflecting similar goals to Blevins’ course, Culbertson recognizes the disparity of women’s financial knowledge.

“I think it’s super important for girls to have this knowledge,” Culbertson said. “Women have gone far too long avoiding this topic or ceding this topic to another group of people, mainly men, and we have more financial independence than we’ve ever had as women. I only want women to to be even more empowered so we can demystify finance at this age.”

Economic buzzwords

Recession – A widespread and extended period of time when economic activity has dropped
Quantitative tightening
– The restriction of money or liquidity to protect the economy when it is overheating
Neutral interest rate
– A point where there is no economic growth or decay
Wage price spiral
– A continuous cycle in which inflation causes higher wage growth, in turn fueling more significant inflation
Real wage growth
– An alteration of payroll to fit worldwide inflation
– The process of reducing the quantity of a product but still keeping the same price
– A time when unemployment and slow growth are at an all-time high
– A worldwide increase of prices over a given period of time