5 Classes Teens Should Take to Start Out on the Right Financial Foot

As we all walk this path of real estate investing and financial freedoms, we learn, grow, and achieve. As we start to find success, we almost always have a moment when we say to ourselves, “What if I would have known all this when I was younger?”

So, what if you are all-in on early FI and real estate investing, and you want to help your kids succeed in these same capacities? What can our teenagers do now to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge? The answer is: plenty!

Related: What Is the FIRE Movement?

How can high school students set themselves up for a bright financial future?

Let’s look at five classes students should take in high school to set themselves up for early financial independence.

1. Personal finance

Yes, this may be kind of obvious, but the vast majority of graduate students high school without having taken any courses that teach them how to manage their own money. Only a few states require students to take a personal finance class to graduate—one of the most unsettling disservices of our public education system.

Some school districts and even individual schools are concerned enough to take the initiative to require this class for their students when not mandated by their state. Kudos to them! But unfortunately, the vast majority of students still do not learn these vital skills and essential knowledge in school.

The good news is that many schools offer a class that teaches personal finance strategies as an elective. This is the case at my school. As an elective, kids can opt to take the class even though it’s not a requirement. Regrettably, at my school, as with many others, only about 20 percent of our graduates take the course—but at least it’s available.

If your child’s high school has this class, get them in it! Ideally, they would take the course as a junior or senior because as they get closer to entering the real world, they tend to accept this information more wholeheartedly.

In my book, First to a Million, I dive deep into many other personal finance strategies a young person can employ to reach early financial freedom. If you have a teenager, check out the book for critical concepts, techniques, and tactics your child can use to reach early financial freedom.

2. Accounting

In addition to learning essential personal finance skills, students would be well served to learn how to keep accurate financial records. Not every school offers an accounting class, but if your child’s school does, it’s another class that will help them in their future.

I took accounting in high school. This was in the early ’90s at a tiny school. I still use those accounting skills today when I balance my account ledgers (now online and with Excel) or analyze a potential rental property with projected revenue and expenses.

An accounting class will also teach your teen about the concept that money coming in needs to exceed money going out. This is a valuable lesson to learn while one is young and before credit cards, car accounts loans, and overdrawn become a reality.

3. Computer applications

I’m pretty sure every entrepreneur, business employee, real estate investor, or FIRE enthusiast has at some point us

I’m pretty sure every entrepreneur, business employee, real estate investor, or FIRE enthusiast has at some point used (or even developed) a spreadsheet to help them accurately analyze an opportunity, property, or other business situation. I would guess that most wished they knew more about how the spreadsheet worked and how to take full advantage of its features, if only to help them save time.

brightly lit school hallway with light gray lockers and blue doors with window leading outside

Not too many high school students are lining up to spend time crunching numbers on a spreadsheet. Thankfully, the spreadsheet curriculum (usually Excel) is typically embedded in a computer applications course of some kind. At my school, the course title is “Computer Applications.” The benefit is that a title like this draws in more students than a class called “Spreadsheet Analysis.” I’m pretty sure the teacher for that course would starve!

In addition, the course likely teaches students how to properly use Word, PowerPoint, and the Google suite, as well as relevant skills like writing a professional email. These are all skills our students need to know no matter what career path they plan to pursue.

4. Clubs or classes that teach public speaking

As a high school student, the mere suggestion of getting in front of people to give a presentation or report petrified me. Clammy hands, dry mouth, sweaty armpits, and shaking fingers come to mind.

Today, I am in front of an audience every day in my classroom—not to mention the dozens and dozens of times I’ve talked in front of large groups of parents and community members throughout my career. I don’t think twice about it. How did that change? Practice.

Like practically everything else in life, practice will improve your teenager’s ability to present in front of a group. The earlier they get started in defeating their fear of presenting or public speaking, the earlier they can attain the confidence needed to succeed in future endeavors. Some classes provide the opportunity to do just that, and some even do so in hypothetical business situations.

At my school, the best way to improve in these areas is by competing in the DECA or FBLA club. These business clubs offer students the opportunity to role-play business situations with an adult judge in a competition format. In addition, they practice these skills in class to prepare for the conferences where they compete.

If your child’s school doesn’t have DECA or FBLA, then a speech and debate class can be just as beneficial (but without the business twist to it).

Related: How to Teach Your Kids to Be Self-Made Millionaires

5. Classes that offer college credit

These days, many high schools offer a variety of classes in which students can concurrently earn college credit. If you are familiar with the AP class structure, this is not what I am referring to. Although AP classes (or similar IB classes in other high schools) can help a student gain college credit, concurrent enrollment courses are different in these ways:

Concurrent enrollment classes lead directly to college credit, usually at a local community college. AP classes may or may not translate into college credits at the university the student chooses.

Concurrent enrollment courses generally do not have a curriculum-based test at the conclusion of the class outside of the regular class setting. AP classes conclude with students taking the relevant AP test at a time and location outside of the regular school day to receive a score of 1 to 5. The score on this test matters as to whether the student will receive college credit.

Concurrent enrollment classes generally have no costs. Students simply take the college-level course at their high school. There is a fee associated with the AP tests, which are required for college credit.

Now, AP classes do have immense value for students since they can also lead to college credit. However, concurrent enrollment classes have more advantages. Talk to your student’s counseling office to see what offerings have dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment status.

By taking advantage of both AP and concurrent enrollment classes, your child could start college as a second-semester freshman or even as a sophomore. I probably don’t have to tell you that this can also save a boatload in tuition costs.

Final thoughts on setting your high schooler up for financial success

Every high school is different and will have its own class choices, but it will serve your child well if you do a little investigation to see if their school offers any of the above classes. And if so, talk to your child’s counselor to make sure they are taking full advantage of these opportunities.

If you have aspirations of your child following your footsteps into a FIRE or REI world (and I assume you are partaking in those strategies if you find yourself reading the BiggerPockets Blog), these classes will set them up for their best life.

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What were the high school classes most helpful to you in your FIRE or REI aspirations? Do you concur that the classes mentioned in this article will set up your high schooler for success?

Comment below to let me know, and thanks for reading.

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