Friday, December 5, 2008

Economics in Financial Literacy (and Geography)

I've run across several interesting resources over the past couple of days. And I expect they could be used in a number of different settings. However, I'll go with the most obvious.

First, Neal Templin is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal, writing a regular column under the byline "Cheapskate." This week he did an interesting piece that lends itself nicely to the personal economics category. He related how the financial responsibilities have evolved since he and his wife got married. They appear to have had different views about money management, and this led to a couple of "surprises." Things have worked themselves out but the lesson is clear - We make better decisions when we have complete information. In short, communication is important for families when it comes to financial management. The resources are scarce (no matter how much you make) and money that gets used in one category is not available for another (opportunity cost is operable, it seems).

There's also been an interesting series of articles in the online edition of The Economist. The series is about an economist who is doing volunteer work providing financial literacy training to young mothers. I was drawn to the series because I believe the economic way of thinking (understanding) is important to teaching basic financial skills. This series only served to strengthen that belief. And while the author didn't appear to spend time developing liquidity preference and other aspects of money management - it is clear that her understanding of the financial world was a benefit in explaining that world to the young mothers who showed up in her class. But the basic advice she gave out was particularly valuable - not just for her specific audience, but for all young people starting out. It's worth a look.

My third and fourth resources were on the blog of National Public Radio (NPR).

The third source popped up because NPR is doing a series on how the economic crisis is affecting different parts of the country. The first installment dates back to July. And the insight of the place and the time is engaging, all the more so because the economy has changed so drastically. For those of us interested in getting our students to understand how economic circumstances can differ across distance and time - or for those trying to give students an understanding of different parts of the U.S. economy, this is gold.

The fourth resource offers a chance for you and your students to be on the radio. NPR is soliciting personal stories about how the current economy is affecting choices and decisions. They are putting together a podcast and they want people to send them an email describing what's going on in their economic lives. My guess is those that NPR finds interesting have a chance of being included in the podcast. Even if you don't get chosen, you might want to consider doing a podcast about different folks in your town and how the economy is affecting their decision-making.

I hope these sites are useful.

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