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H&R Block Helps High School Teachers Tackle Financial Literacy in the Classroom

H&R Block Helps High School Teachers Tackle Financial Literacy in the Classroom

KANSAS CITY, MO – Aug. 31, 2016 When asked about financial literacy, 86 percent of teens say they would rather learn about money management in a class before making mistakes in the real world. Good news for those teens: the H&R Block Budget Challenge is back with sessions beginning Sept. 8 in high schools nationwide.

Offered free to high school teachers through H&R Block, the online game teaches students to pay bills, manage expenses, save money, invest in retirement and pay taxes as if they were recent college graduates. In addition to gaining important life skills, 10 students will win $20,000 college scholarships based on their real-world readiness after completing the program.

“We are committed to helping teens learn before they earn and have fun increasing their financial fitness,” said Kathy Collins, chief marketing officer of H&R Block. “More than 250,000 students have participated in the H&R Block Budget Challenge to date. Their stories about the difference our financial education and scholarships have made for them make kicking off another school year even more exciting.”

Real-world ready
More than 96 percent of teachers who have participated in the Block-sponsored program applaud its learn-by-doing approach. During game play, participants save an average of $1,350 virtually – a habit Collins and her team hope will carry over to the real world. Currently, 73 percent of millennials say they either have no savings or savings of less than $1,000.

In addition to the importance of savings, Budget Challenge students learn the costly consequences of poor financial decisions, like bank overdraft fees. More than 90 percent of Budget Challenge participants said they’re more likely to check account balances before writing checks rather than adding to the more than $6 billion in overdraft and ATM fees collected by large banks last year alone.

Sugar Land, Texas scholarship winner Angela Lin’s Budget Challenge experience inspired her to take an active role managing her family’s finances including paying the bills and creating a budget to help them meet their financial goals.

A scholarship from H&R Block allowed Emma Fancher of Guntersville, Ala. to attend college debt free where she says her Budget Challenge knowledge was quickly applied. Watching many of her peers apply for credit cards, Emma knows how to analyze the pros and cons of a credit card, including interest rates and how a credit card will affect her credit score.

To learn more; access full terms, conditions and eligibility requirements; or to register as a teacher, visit www.HRBDS.org.

Editor’s Note: Former participants – including students and teachers – are available to share their personal experiences with the H&R Budget Challenge.

About H&R Block Dollars & Sense

H&R Block, Inc. (NYSE: HRB) is a global consumer tax services provider. Tax return preparation services are provided by professional tax preparers in approximately 12,000 company-owned and franchise retail tax offices worldwide, and through H&R Block tax software products for the DIY consumer. H&R Block Dollars & Sense is committed to increasing teens’ financial fitness by providing practical financial skills and has helped more than 1 million teens become more real-world ready. For more information, visit the H&R Block Newsroom, www.HRBDS.org or follow H&R Block on TwitterInstagram or Facebook.

About ProperLiving

Based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, ProperLiving, LLC owns and operates the Budget Challenge Personal Finance Simulation, which received a U.S. Patent in May 2013.

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4.26-blog

5 Ways to Use Your Tax Refund Wisely

Tax season gets a bum rap.

While tax day is often associated with having to pay the government, most people actually will receive a check compensating for money they’ve overpaid in taxes throughout the previous year. In 2015, the average refund was $2,893.

Adults usually direct this tax refund toward boring stuff like bills, but teens are free to spend this lump sum of money as they please, right? This is a free country, so technically, yes; but we suggest applying a bit of wisdom when it comes to your refund check.

But before you can start planning what you’ll do with your sweet, sweet cash, you should first know if filing a tax return is even necessary. Once you’ve got that straightened out, follow these five suggestions on how to use your tax refund wisely:

  1. Save for college

Nearly 70 percent of students are taking out loans to pay for college, and on average those loans amount to $33,000 per student. When you account for the interest, many people continue paying off student loans well into their thirties. By starting your own savings now, you could avoid or diminish the realities of this inconvenient, postgraduate truth. 

  1. Pay down debt

The average U.S. household carries $15,762 in credit card debt. While you shouldn’t have nearly that much as a teen, you’d be surprised how quickly it can pile up. If you have a credit card with even a small amount of debt, using your refund check to pay it off is a smart move. Not only does it help you prevent the dreaded black hole of debt, it also improves your credit score — win-win.

  1. Start an emergency fund

The definition of an emergency is a serious, unexpected situation, which is why you ought to plan for one ahead of time. If you don’t have money saved, the effects of a serious emergency (e.g., a medical emergency) can be compounded. Only 51 percent of Americans have enough cash in their emergency accounts to clear themselves of credit card debt. Be like the other 49 percent.

  1. Buy something useful

This may come as a shock, but when you move out of your parents’ house you lose the use of all their things. From food to paper towels, these are things you’ll need to budget for as an adult. Even more pressing is the fact that items you need like cars and computers tend to need repairs and you’ll have to cover the costs. Use your refund check now to upgrade any item you simply will be lost without.

  1. Invest

What’s the only thing better than having money? Making more money with it! Investing is no doubt complicated, but there are very safe ways to invest money. Not only will it boost your bank account, it will also prevent you from spending it frivolously.

For more info on jumpstarting a better tomorrow with your refund check, read this post from H&R Block Talk.

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Can You Pass This Financial Literacy Quiz?

Think you know everything about how to manage money successfully? For example, do you know the difference between different types of bank accounts? What about the fees associated with a credit card? Take this financial literacy quiz and prove it!

Q1: Uh oh, you forget to pay your cell phone bill and get a late notice. What kind of repercussions can you likely expect?

  • A. Your phone will be shut off
  • B. You’ll be charged a late fee
  • C. Your next bill will be double the price

Q2: Which type of account allows you to make an unlimited number of withdrawals without a fee?

  • A. Certificate of deposit
  • B. Checking account
  • C. Savings account

Q3: Your auto insurance plan has a $600 deductible. Driving home from work, you get into an accident and cause $800 worth of damage to your car and $1,500 to the other person’s car. How much of the cost do you have to cover?

  • A. $200
  • B. $1,700
  • C. $600

Q4: Which of the following is incorrect about using an ATM?

  • A. ATMs are usually open 24 hours a day.
  • B. You can get information about your account at an ATM machine.
  • C. You can get cash anywhere in the world without a fee.

Q5: What does APR stand for?

  • A. Annual Perpetual Rate
  • B. Annual Percentage Rate
  • C. Annuity Per Refund

Q6: How much should be in your emergency fund?

  • A. $1,000
  • B. Two months worth of rent or mortgage payments
  • C. Six months worth of living expenses

Q7: What is the recommended max percentage of your take-home income you should spend on monthly housing expenses?

  • A. 30 percent
  • B. 45 percent
  • C. 50 percent

Q8: You earn $8 an hour at your job at the mall and worked 11 hours this pay period. When you get your check, you notice it’s less than the $88 you expected. Why is that?

  • A. Your employer has the right to withhold money from your paycheck at will.
  • B. The store you work at is allowed to take money out at will.
  • C. State and federal taxes have been taken out of your paycheck.

Q9: Student loan borrowing is at an all-time high, and so is the default rate on making student loan payments. What kind of relief should you expect on your student loans if you file for bankruptcy?

  • A. Significant relief—all debts are wiped clean so you can have a fresh start.
  • B. Moderate relief—usually payments and amount owed are adjusted to match your ability to pay.
  • C. No relief—it’s extremely rare to get any relief for student loans from bankruptcy

Q10: What does a FICO score determine?

  • A. Your credit rating
  • B. Your interest rate
  • C. The fee you will be charged when taking out a loan

Check your answers below! How’d you do? Do you need to brush up on your financial literacy knowledge or do you have what it takes to have a successful financial future? Let us know in the comments section.

 

 

 

Answers:

  1. B
  2. B
  3. C
  4. C
  5. B
  6. C
  7. A
  8. C
  9. C
  10. A

Are Your Money Habits Thrifty or Wasteful? [VIDEO]

Just because you know the foundations of responsible money management doesn’t necessarily mean you adhere to them. H&R Block Dollars & Sense hit the streets to find out what people are spending their money on and what money lessons they’ve learned over the years. Are people ignoring everything they’ve learned about managing money? Watch the video to find out.

 

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Financial Literacy Across the World

The United States is considered a global leader on numerous fronts, but when it comes to teenage financial literacy, we’re simply middle of the pack.

In fact, on a 2014 international financial literacy test, the mean score for American 15-year-old test takers was roughly 490. For context, that places us between Latvia on the upper end and Russia on the lower end. Shanghai teens performed the best with a mean score around 600.

So why doesn’t America’s greatness translate to teenage financial literacy? Well, the answer is simple: we aren’t teaching enough teens the basics.

According to the Council for Economic Education, the number of states that require high school students to take a course in personal finance has remained unchanged at 17 since 2014. To put it another way, less than half the American states are preparing their teens for real world money management.

Meanwhile, other countries across the globe are implementing mandates to require financial literacy coursework be taught in schools. The United Kingdom joined Australia and Singapore in 2014 as countries that include personal finance classes in official curriculum, and other countries like Canada and New Zealand are poised to make similar requirements in the near future.

Among the states that have mandated personal finance education courses, the students exhibit meaningful improvements. Three years following the course implementation in Georgia, Idaho and Texas, credit scores increased by 2 percent, 3 percent and 5 percent respectively.

Additionally, students who have received personal finance education are more likely to display financially responsibly behaviors like saving, budgeting and investing. The Council for Economic Education reports 93 percent of those who have taken a class save money vs. 84 percent of those who have not; 60 percent of those who have taken a class have a budget vs. 46 percent of those who have not; 32 percent of those who have taken a class have invested money vs. 17 percent of those who have not.

But perhaps an even more significant obstacle for teens to hurdle in the quest to obtain lifelong financial skills is that most parents don’t feel equipped to pass on sound financial knowledge, according to PBS.

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What Does Financial Literacy Mean To You?

Whether you’re 14 or 44, being financially literate is crucial at any age. We asked a group of parents and teens what being financially literate means to them and how they use this knowledge in their everyday lives!

I’ve heard of financial literacy, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t personally know much about finances, but I’d like to learn how to spend money wisely so I’m prepared for when I’m adult. — Brenna K., 14

I want to be educated on how to manage my money because I don’t think I’m quite there yet. I sometimes talk to my parents about money, but not enough. — Juliana C., 14

I had one personal finance class in high school, but it was optional. Being financially literate to me means that I’m able to understand my bills and exactly what I’m looking at when I get those bills. — Amanda O., 20

Being financially literate definitely means staying on top of my bills and making sure I have enough money to cover those, but also that I have enough money to go out and have a good time. — Ryan S., 20 

Overall, being financially literate helps you not incur credit card debt, knowing where to invest and save, and creating a budget. I talk to my kids about money, and they each have a credit card so they’re able to budget what they want to spend, and then pay it off at the end of the month to create credit. — Leslie G., 43 

I think budgeting is definitely the most important part of being financially literate. I like to save rather than spend my money. — Kaileigh E., 18 

It’s so important to be financially literate, and I personally need to get better at it. It’s important to make sure you know what you’re spending and if you’re spending it well. — Courtney E., 20

I need to make sure I keep my bank account in check and my checkbook balanced. My dad helps me out a lot and helps me understand my finances. — Emily D., 19 

My parents help me out a lot with my finances, but being financial literate means everything to me because you have to save your money. Being a student is hard and you have to pay for school and all that, but I think my parents help me out a lot. — Colleen O., 19

I’m not financially literate. I don’t take any personal finance classes, but I wish I did because I’d learn to spend my money better. Right now I spend it on crazy stuff that I probably shouldn’t, like toys. — Jacob F., 14 

I like to be aware of how I’m spending and saving my money. I check my bank account frequently and have certain apps that help me make sure I budget wisely. In the future, I want to make sure that I’m putting away 10 percent of my paycheck and saving for an emergency fund. — Charlotte H., 22 

In order to make sure I’ve got a grip on my finances, I make sure I save enough. That’s the point of financial literacy. — Johanna H., 31

I don’t think teens are very financially literate. There often isn’t any education in high school so we as teens aren’t as smart with our money as we should be. — Eric H., 12 

I think I’ve talked about it with my parents, but not at school. I’ve talked about money and how you should spend it in a smart way. — Katharina F., 16

What does being financially literate mean to YOU? How do you make sure you’re keeping track of your money? Let us know in the comments below.

4.7-blog

Teaching Teens Financial Literacy on National No Housework Day

If you add up all the housework parents do in a given year to maintain a happy, healthy and, most importantly, clean home, it’s safe to assume that on average every single day will involve a chore or two.

But not on April 7. Today is the one day that deviates from the mean because it’s National No Housework Day.

For one day, all the dishes should be left in the sink; all the laundry should stay soiled; all the beds should remain unmade. But this national holiday should be a valuable reminder for teens: housework piles up quickly when nobody tends to it.

So how can you turn this day into a teaching lesson?

Divide and Conquer

The saying “two heads are better than one” is a universally accepted truth, but for reasons unknown many parents dismiss it when it comes to family housework. A Chicago Tribune article reported 82 percent of parents did chores when they were kids, but only 28 percent ask their kids to do the same. By splitting all the cleanup duties in the wake of No Housework Day, your teen should understand that a united front against chores will make for a faster and easier process. Additionally, if you give your teen a specific role that they can continue to own long after No Housework Day, it will give them a clearly defined responsibility and lessen the need for micromanaging.

Pay to Play

The same article reported 13 percent of parents said their kids will only do chores if they’re paid. Even though this is a low number, these teens are working wisely within our capitalist system. Providing an allowance for completion of housework is something that parents should consider, especially if you ask your teen to do larger jobs that can be seasonal or bi-annual (think: cleaning the gutters). Creating a minor work environment will teach teens compensation is only rewarded with a job well done — a vital real world lesson.

Time is money management

Giving teens household duties they are expected to complete on time will provide a tangible time management system they can take to the next stage of their lives. If they want to see a movie, for example, they won’t be able to afford it without timely completion of their tasks. Three-quarters of the parent respondents agreed that chores make children “more responsible,” so the only thing holding back their development is a well-structured plan.

If you lead the way, parents, you’ll find a well-balanced distribution of household work will create more free time for you — perhaps even a semi-annual celebration of No Housework Day!

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Helping Teens Grow Into Successful Adults With Personal Finance Knowledge

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.” The function of education, he argued, is vital for the betterment of students’ lives and society as a whole.

As we continue to focus on the need for personal finance education, specifically as April marks Financial Literacy Month, it’s important to recognize its role in forming a well-rounded student. Because teens who lack a basic understanding of personal finance will grow into adults who are not equipped with the tools to lead financially stable lives.

The Proof

A 2012 study of nearly 30,000 teenagers from 18 countries found more than 1 in 6 students in the United States failed to reach the baseline level of proficiency in financial literacy, according to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That places American students in the middle of the pack worldwide.

Moreover, a 2016 survey from the Council for Economic Education reports only seven U.S. states require high school testing of personal finance concepts, with stagnation in mandates for personal finance education. Additionally, the number of states that require completion of economics courses is on the decline over the past two years.

The Results

In a 2015 national survey we found 42 percent of teenagers said they are not “financially fit,” and 2 in 5 teens would give up their smartphones if it meant graduating college debt free. A similar study in 2014 revealed 83 percent of teenagers do not keep a budget.

The juxtaposition of these statistics is stark. Teenagers show concern for the future of their financial health but aren’t taking the proper basic measures to set themselves up for success. With the continually rising costs of college education and a shortage of financial skills, young adults are greeted with shock upon leaving the confines of college campuses.

Seventy percent of college graduates, according to debt.org, leave school with student loan debt that in 2014 averaged $33,000. In total, U.S. student debt is around $1.2 trillion, with $3,000 of debt accrued each second.

The Solution

It all starts with the basics: personal finance education. Whether at school or at home, students should have the opportunity to learn practical life skills, like balancing a checkbook, the importance of saving early and saving often, and how investments can benefit from growth over time.

“To be successful, most kids don’t need to learn about collateralized debt instruments, but they do need to know how to open a bank account, how much they need to save each month to reach their goals and, if they borrow this amount of money, how much money they will need to earn to pay it back,” said Nan Morrison, president and CEO of the Council for Economic Education. ”

The Council for Economic Education found students who learn these basic financial literacy skills are more likely to engage in financially responsible behavior such as saving, budgeting and investing, and have better average credit scores and lower debt delinquency.

These are the skills the younger generation must possess because before we know it, they will be the ones who have the money and run the country. Don’t we want them to run it properly?

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Who’s a Bitcoin and Where Can I Facebook Him?

Have you ever heard your teens talking about Bitcoin and thought, “Oh, great—not another video game”?

If so, then you’ve been greatly misinformed. Yes, Bitcoin is a product of the Internet age and is used solely within the digital sphere, but it is not a video game. It’s also not a social media platform, mobile app or new dance craze.

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency—a.k.a. cryptocurrency—created and held electronically that operates independently of a central bank and its regulations. Being that it’s a decentralized currency free from the control of one institution or government, its value is derived from the relationship between its supply and demand.

This is all very confusing and quite abstract, we understand. But the simple truth is that teens can buy and use Bitcoin on the Internet to purchase just about anything. There are no age restrictions in place to purchase Bitcoins, and for a younger generation that operates almost exclusively on the Internet, it’s more than likely they’ll come across an opportunity to get involved with it.

So what should you, the parent, know about Bitcoin? We’ve distilled the info and packaged it into bite-sized pros and cons.

Pros:

  1. Allows teens to make purchases online

In most jurisdictions, an individual must be 18 years of age to make a purchase on online. That means your teen will either get a hold of your credit card with no restrictions (yikes!) or you’ll have to monitor each and every purchase (also yikes!). With Bitcoin, a teen can spend a specific amount and receive a corresponding amount of bitcoins in return, regardless of age. There’s no immediate risk of overspending.

  1. Teaches teens practical personal financial skills

Budgeting is engrained in this system. Teens have to decide what is worthy of their bitcoins. Additionally, all bitcoins are encrypted with the history of each and every purchase, meaning frivolous purchases will never be forgotten and hopefully can teach meaningful lessons. This system of spending also provides more independence, which might work well with some teens that resent being constantly monitored by parents.

  1. Encourages entrepreneurships

Teens can actually earn bitcoins using their skills—just like a job. The Internet isn’t as ageist as the real world, so if a 13 year old can do computer programming as good or better than a 35 year old, then they can be hired and paid in Bitcoin. Freelance writers, gamers and programmers are regularly being paid in Bitcoin for their services. The value of ability and competence is valued more highly in this space than experience/wisdom/degrees.

Cons:

  1. The dollar value of bitcoins is volatile

Fluctuation is the name of the game here. Within a two-year span, the price of Bitcoin went from under $100 to over $1,000. The current price of Bitcoin on the market as of this writing it $375. What this means in normal person terms: a bitcoin that bought you a DVD on Amazon yesterday won’t necessarily be able to buy you a piece of gum tomorrow. Additionally, there is only a finite amount available. This gets complex as well, but the basic fact is there will only ever be 21 million bitcoins in existence, with close to 15 million of them still unreleased to the general public.

  1. Only 2 percent of merchants currently accept Bitcoin

That 2 percent equates to 160,000 digital merchants, so there are places to use Bitcoin. It’s frustrating, but don’t expect to be able to use it everywhere. Additionally, if more merchants don’t begin adopting Bitcoin payment, the overall value could potentially take a hit.

  1. Can be used for not-so-reputable dealings

While some see and use Bitcoin as a way to fund some shady dealings, the big picture view is that they’re better used as an investment tool. Some analysts have made optimistic predictions that by 2025 one Bitcoin will be worth $17,473. That would provide a handsome return to current Bitcoin owners.

However, your teen can still use Bitcoin for smaller payment transactions. It’s a fun foray into money management that could give them insight into an emerging form of currency that could very well become commonplace in our society.