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Youngsters learn about cash and credit with financial literacy classes

05/11/2015 06:59 EDT | Updated 05/11/2016 05:59 EDT
At St. Bernard school in Saskatoon, math teacher Albert Couture poses a question that leads to a lesson about finances:

"Can you guys tell me the best way to pay these bills?" Couture asked, as part of a course for his Grade 6 and 7 students.

The responses show the youngsters have much to learn.

"It seems like there are only advantages to credit cards," Brett Robertson, 13, says.

The lesson progresses to a discussion about the temptations related to buying on credit.

"If I want it, I get it right now. And it's easy to do, because I just pull out this piece of plastic," Couture said. "It's a lesson that kids need to learn: that saving is really important."

According to a recent study by chartered professional accountants, most households in Canada are not saving money on a regular basis and some 40 per cent are not regularly paying down existing debt.

Yet, financial literacy is not part of the core curriculum in Saskatchewan schools.

Couture chooses to work it into his classes. He knows most kids won't learn about interest rates, mortgages, RRSPs, or taxes from their parents.

A recent survey by the Bank of Montreal revealed most Canadian parents would rather talk to their kids about sex than family finances.

One way that many students in Saskatchewan learn some of the harsh financial realities of being a grown-up is through a reality game, the Real Game Series, that is played in thousands of schools across Canada.

Using laptop computers, students have jobs with monthly salaries and are invited to dream about what they would liketo have. 

"I'm going to add a house and buy some horses," Davis Herperger, 12, suggested. However, ideas changed as the students encountered bills and taxes.

"I was planning on getting all these nice cars, then it kind of hit me that I could only get a bike," Robertson said, after discovering he has been overspending by $2,000 per month.

Another classmate playing the game was running out of money quickly.

"I don't even have a cellphone. It's like $400 dollars. That's my water bill," Ashton Schrader said.

The lesson learned: consider saving 10 per cent of their gross earnings.

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