In 2015 Standard & Poor’s, Gallup, the World Bank, and George Washington University crafted a short five question quiz to test financial literacy across the globe,  two-thirds of respondents failed the quiz, and the United States didn’t make the top ten for financial literacy :

Most Colleges and Universities have some form of math course for non-majors and non-STEM students. The course, sometime called Liberal Arts Math, tends to cover a variety of topics and the flow of the course can be individual to the instructor and the specific institution.   Financial topics are an area that lend themselves for use in such courses.  And, with some scaffolding, it is possible to cover a variety of slightly more complex and extremely pertinent financial topics.   Using the ideas covered in the financial literacy quiz we have provide an outline for a unit on Finance.

  1. Budgeting – In this section give students an average first year out of college salary for your area and have them craft a budget, including rent, any loan payments, food, gas, utilities. Once they have crafted a budget have them see how long it takes to create a three-month and then six-month emergency fund.  You can also have them identify any savings goals they would like such as buying a new car or taking a trip and add them into the budget.
  2. Simple and Compound Interest – Now that they have a budget, students can compare the different types of savings accounts available to a savings vehicle such as a CD. Have them decide what works best for their savings goals.
  3. Annuities – In this section students can examine the more complex relationship between payments and interest. Ordinary annuities and tax-deferred annuities are good topics to cover.
  4. Amortized loans- In this final section students bring everything together. You can cover examples ranging from student loans, to home and car loans.
  5. Final Budget -Tying everything back to their original budget have student talk about how their initial budget would change now that they have a better understanding how savings and loans work.

Depending on your course this outline can be modified to be completed in two to five weeks and can work for both assessment and project-based courses.    As a bonus you can give your students the five question survey before and after the unit to see how well they have learned the material.