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including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Are teens spending money wisely?

By Nancy Templeman

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 17 - January 26, 1995

In a national test of consumer skills, high-school juniors and seniors only answered 42 percent of the 52-item multiple choice test correctly. These are the same American teens who spent an estimated $99 billion in 1994 according to a Wall Street Journal story reporting data from Teenage Research Unlimited of Northbrook, Ill.

Irene Leech, an Extension Home Economics specialist at Virginia Tech, explains that the national consumer-skills test covered the kinds of transactions teens might make, such as food purchases, home rentals, credit, checking and savings accounts, auto insurance, and auto purchase. "Only 11 percent knew what to do if a credit report contains incorrect information about them," Leech says. "And only 27 percent knew that a landlord must get a court order before evicting a tenant," she adds.

Other national studies confirm teens' lack of money-management skills and report that even college-bound students have little knowledge on how to manage their personal financial resources.

In 1994, more than 4,000 Virginia teenagers had the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge about managing their own finances. They participated in the Virginia Cooperative Extension's High School Financial Planning Program. "We developed the program in response to the need shown in those national statistics. After researching the best type of program, we developed it as a curriculum for use in schools," says Leech.

Any public or private school can use the program. It includes a curriculum, teacher training, and student materials for a wide variety of classroom settings: business, family life, personal finance, math, work and family studies, or social studies.

Students, teachers, and administrators express their enthusiasm for the program and its curriculum, which includes goal setting, budgeting, credit, savings--the whole financial-planning process.