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University of Denver gives sound financial advice to teens

Students and staff from DU's School of Accountancy have been delivering financial literacy advice to 9th graders at Aurora Science and Tech High School.

AURORA, Colo. — A partnership between the University of Denver (DU) and Aurora Public Schools (APS) is giving 9th graders financially sound advice. 

A group of students and faculty from DU's School of Accountancy have been delivering financial literacy lessons to students at Aurora Science and Tech High School. The group delivered four workshops focused on financial basics, using credit wisely and investing for the future.

“Financial literacy is something that you can start developing early and the important thing is to build good habits,” said Sharon Lassar, Ph.D., DU’s director of the School of Accountancy. “Making sure to know to read the fine print when you sign up for something, thinking about saving, not spending every cent you make.”

Credit: Byron Reed
Sharon Lasar Ph.D. CPA (Florida) is the director of the University of Denver's School of Accountancy.

According to the National Financial Educators council, only 16% of millennials are considered financially literate. Financial literacy is a skill that is often overlooked in primary education and one that could be beneficial for those who come from low-income backgrounds.

“We all want to drive at the age of 16 but there’s a big cost to adding a 16-year-old to a family insurance policy,” Lassar said. “If the students hear that from us and they see the numbers, then they might be more willing to consider the reluctance of their family members to help them get that driver’s license immediately at age 16.”

Credit: Byron Reed

Each workshop pairs a DU professor with a DU accounting student to deliver financial lessons to the 9th grade class. The focus is to educate students on the basic concepts of personal finance like savings, budgeting, risk management and insurance coverage. Lassar said teaching teens about financial responsibility is easier when they’re young.

“You don’t have the expenses,” Lassar said. “So, if you can think about building the habit of saving some money, thinking about how you spend your money, being very intentional with how you spend your money, those are habits that will see you through your life.”

Credit: Byron Reed

DU is in its first year of delivering its financial literacy program to students at Aurora Science and Tech. This year, they had about 180 freshmen participate and are hoping to develop new lessons for each grade level so students can learn about managing their finances during all four years of high school.

“You learn about budgeting and how to spend your money wisely,” said freshman Jordyn Brown. “I think it’s important that we learn these skills because if we’re in a situation that we don’t know how to do this, I feel that it would be a lot worse and kind of embarrassing if you don’t know how to deal with a car accident or losing your job.”

Credit: Byron Reed

Brown and her classmate Sabas Trujillo have attended all four workshops learning how much impact finance has in their lives.

“Kids my age would just spend the money on weird things,” said Trujillo. “But now I know how to invest in the stock market and make sure you set aside money for insurance.”

Lassar said the program also helps students better understand types of financial situations their families might be in.

“Thinking about saving for retirement is something that the students don’t need to do,” Lassar said. “But their families need to think about that and so helping them be aware of situations their families might face is also part of the lesson.”

Credit: Byron Reed

The goal is to make sure students know how budgeting can affect their lives and help them develop a financial plan they can count on.

Whether it comes from building a budget or thinking about major purchases, how do they save, or how do they build credit,” Lassar said. “At this level, we’re really just looking for awareness so they can absorb more of this as they go through their life.”

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