SUPERIOR — Starting with the class of 2028, next year’s freshmen, Wisconsin students will be required to take a half-credit of financial literacy to graduate.

When Gov. Tony Evers signed the bipartisan financial literacy bill into law in December, Superior High School business information technology instructor Donna Stubbe was elated.

“I was so excited. I went home and celebrated that night,” she said.

Stubbe teaches a personal finance course at SHS. Every year, she shepherds roughly 140 students through the one-semester course, which is open to grades 10-12. It provides half a math credit at SHS. If students pass with a C or above, Stubbe said, they also get three college credits from Northwood Technical College that can transfer to most four-year universities.

“Because a lot of schools now require a personal finance course,” Stubbe said.

According to the S

uperior School District’s conversion table

, a standards-based grading score of 2 to 2.49 would equate to a C.

The Dave Ramsey curriculum that Stubbe teaches is based on five foundations, from having an emergency fund and staying out of debt to paying cash for things like a car or college. It uses a zero-based budgeting method where every dollar has a name.

“It is tough today to get ahead in life and you’re not making enough money anyway,” Stubbe said. “But if you can realize that you can make your money grow for you, instead of paying interest, and not having debt, you can retire, and you can retire at a young age.”

The final assignment involves making a life plan that incorporates the student’s personal, career, financial and retirement goals into one package from age 18 to retirement.

“Then they started to break it down into what their expenses were going to look like during that time and what their income was going to look like,” Stubbe said.

Students aren’t the only ones who have learned from the course.

“After my first year of teaching Dave Ramsey, I can honestly say my only debt is my house payment,” the teacher said. “Because I just never realized how much you’re really paying for the use to borrow money in the long run.”

Finances when the future is ‘in your face’

Tanner Smith, who finished his senior year at SHS Jan. 19, took the personal finance course as a junior.

“It was my option to make up a math credit so I can still graduate early this year,” said Smith, who plans to start an apprenticeship in plumbing when he turns 18.

Although he was initially unhappy with the work-heavy course, it grew on him.

“Those are skills that I needed to learn, even if I didn’t like learning them,” Smith said.

His biggest takeaway was the importance of investments and a working knowledge of insurance.

Teacher works at her desk.

Superior High School business teacher Donna Stubbe works at her desk in her classroom on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 24.

Jed Carlson / Duluth Media Group

“And also just basic financial skills like saving, how to write a check, proper money management, how insurance works, like health care insurance and deductibles and premiums and all that,” Smith said. “Useful skills that anyone should have, especially going into adulthood.”

The new graduate has already put a focus on building healthy financial habits.

“I’ve refused to get a credit card for any reason,” Smith said. “I’ve had a debit card for the last couple of years; I’ve handled a savings account, a checking account. When I turn 18 I plan on investing into a couple of mutual funds.”

Whichever curriculum is chosen, Smith said it will have the biggest impact if it’s taken when, as a senior, the future is “in your face.”

“I would say wait until your senior year so you can absorb it better and you’d be more focused on it because you’re probably paying more of your own bills at that point,” Smith said.

Taking shape

Wisconsin is the 24th state to require a standalone financial literacy course for graduation, according to the

nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance

. The nonprofit’s mission is to see all high school students in the U.S. be required to take at least one semester of financial literacy by 2030. The Wisconsin bill requires that the course includes specific topics, but what that class will look like has yet to be finalized.

“We have lots of planning to do first before we will know that,” said Crystal Hintzman, director of curriculum and instruction for the School District of Superior.

The first step will take place in February with the formation of a small committee to discuss logistics, such as which policies about graduation requirements need revision and who will be part of the curriculum planning process.

“Additionally, we need to wait for more detailed information about this requirement from DPI (Department of Public Instruction) and use that information in our planning as well,” Hintzman said.

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