School Project of The Year, Right Here!

I get a lot of notes over the years, but every now and then I’m completely blown away by one, and such was the case yesterday when I opened up my email and found this gem waiting for me…

If you’re a teacher, or have friends who are teachers, PLEASE PASS THIS TO THEM and let’s get this course into more schools around the world!!

This is so great!!

Hey J,

I thought you might like to see this blog that my class made that was inspired by you.

The grade 11 math curriculum here in Ontario, Canada requires that students “investigate bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds” and in the past I gave students a guided investigation that bored them (and me!) to tears and from which they remembered ZILCH!

Not prepared to do that again, and inspired by your newsletters, I created an assignment where students had to pick 5 topics from an extensive list (see attached! You’ll recognize lots of them) and write a brief post about it. I’m pretty happy with the results and looking forward to reading them all.

The best part was that students were bubbling over wanting to tell me about what they had learned! Their quiz from the unit was to read 5 other people’s posts and tell me what they learned about those other topics.

So by the end, students will have learned something about ten wildly divergent personal finance topics, but more importantly got into the world of online financial blogs like yours. I hope they will continue.

Carla Dempsey

And here were the attachments she passed over if you want to download and check out:

What a breath of fresh air!!! This was the best part – “students were bubbling over wanting to tell me about what they had learned!” Can you imagine?? For a FINANCE class??

Teacher of The Year right there, Ms. Dempsey… Way to challenge the norm and make this stuff not only INTERESTING for your students, but RELEVANT as well! Ain’t no kid wants to learn about prudent financial management (or adults for that matter), but put it in more fun terms that’s based around freedom and living out your dreams and ENJOYING your money, and everyone’s down! Which surprise surprise, comes from smart financial management!

So way to introduce your students to a whole other way of learning out there, and hopefully they go on to do more of it on their own inspired by you and the community. That’s what our $$$$ blogs are all about!

I’ve copied/pasted the transcript of this course assignment below for your viewing (and learning) pleasure…

Maybe if you take on the work yourself, Ms. Dempsey will grade your report for you? ;) The only changes I made were to link to a lot of the articles and resources for quicker access, as well as a few other notes… Lots of new stuff I haven’t seen before, myself!

Personal Finance Culminating Assignment

For this assignment you will select five of the following topics to investigate.

You will produce a written piece for each (150 – 300 words) or a podcast-like recorded oral summary. (Hint: this section of text before the line is about 150 words)

Each student will have five different topics to produce. You may only select one from each section. Try to pick topics that sound interesting to you. No students may pick the same topic (except compare/contrast podcasts or blogs – as long as different podcasts/blogs are selected). Some of the topics are very wide open – this is so you can find something interesting within the topic that you think your classmates will find interesting/helpful.

Each written pieces and recording will be posted to a class blog. In future you will be asked to read several pieces and describe them. The requirements for each may be slightly different. Check with Ms. Dempsey if you are unsure how to proceed.

See the attached rubric for further information about marking and expectations. More than one student can do the first three items as long as they choose different things to compare.

  1. Financial Blogs — Compare and contrast two (or more) financial blogs. (See Ms. Dempsey for a list of blogs to choose from or find your own)
  2. Financial Podcasts — Compare and contrast two (or more) financial podcasts. (See the list of blogs – many also have podcasts. You’ll have to search your podcast app to find them. Or google “financial podcasts”)
  3. Bank Accounts and Credit Cards — Compare and Contrast two (or more) banks or credit cards. You will include information such as service charges, interest rates, etc.
    1. Compare a regular big bank (i.e., CIBC, RBC, TD, Scotiabank, etc) to a discount bank (Simplii, Tangerine) or credit union (Kawartha Credit Union, Ganaraska Credit Union, etc)
    2. Compare a store rewards credit card (i.e., PC Financial MC, Canadian Tire MC, Costco MC) to a regular bank card or other (ex. American Express)
  4. Savings Ideas — Describe and critique one of the following “savings” ideas:
    1. Timeline vs Intensity (Afford Anything)
    2. The Money Jar (Gail Vaz-Oxlade)
    3. Grow the Gap (Afford Anything)
    4. Saving is Sexy (Humble Dollar)
    5. Challenge Everything (J. Money – Budgets are Sexy)
    6. “Spaving” (J. Money – Budgets are Sexy)
    7. The 1% Challenge (Afford Anything)
    8. The $5 Bill Trick (Rockstar Finance)
    9. The Zero Day Challenge (Zero Day Finance)
  5. Definitions — Define the following and describe why it matters. Include examples.
    1. Time Value of Money
    2. Passive Income
    3. Net Worth
    4. Credit Score/Credit Rating
    5. Risk Evaluation (in relation to investments)
    6. Stocks
    7. Bonds
    8. Gross income vs Net income
    9. Mutual Funds
    10. ETFs
    11. Index Funds
    12. RRSP
    13. Consumer Debt
    14. OSAP
    15. Needs vs. Wants
  6. Calculations — Explain how to perform these calculations, show two examples, link to at least two spreadsheets or apps that can help with these.
    1. Retirement (ie. When can you retire or how much will you need)
    2. Net worth
    3. Mortgages – what can you afford to buy?
    4. Mortgages – what will that house really cost?
    5. Budgets
    6. The Rule of 72
  7. Financial Rules (or Myths?) — Describe and critique one of these – rules or myths…
    1. Pay yourself first.
    2. Keep 3 months net income in an emergency fund account.
    3. Make and follow a budget.
    4. The 4% rule for retirement
    5. A penny saved is a penny earned.
    6. Pay off your mortgage first!
    7. Money doesn’t buy happiness
    8. “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you spend.”
  8. Innovations — Describe and critique.
    1. The Financial Gym
    2. Robo-Advisors
    3. TFSA
    4. Minimalism
    5. Financial Independence (aka Early Retirement)
    6. Vanguard Funds
    7. Minimalist Finance
  9. Calculators — Compare and contrast two versions of the following calculators (either online or mobile app versions)
    1. Mortgage
    2. Loan
    3. Investment/TVM solver
    4. Budget
  10. Apps — Describe and critique a financial app of your choice (check with Ms. Dempsey first) or try one of these suggestions:
    1. Honey Money
    2. Pick Pocket (NOTE: just got word they’re closing down due to funding :( )
    3. DebX (UPDATE: recently got acquired and merged with Debitize)
    4. On Trajectory
    5. Hardbacon (NOTE: Canadian app)
    6. An app provided by your own bank
  11. Miscellaneous — Describe and critique.
    1. “The Year of No Spending”
    2. The Power of 10X Thinking (Afford Anything)
    3. The Anti-Budget (Afford Anything)
    4. Present Bias (Young and Thrifty)
    5. The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement (Mr. Money Moustache)
    6. The Four Types of Expenses (Budgets are Sexy)
    7. Buying a New Car vs. Buying a Used Car
    8. Buying a Car vs. Leasing a Car
    9. The Financial Diet
    10. Financial Feng Shui
  12. The Olden Days — Define the following and describe why these ideas are going the way of the dodo bird. Include examples and/or calculations to show how they worked.
    1. Balancing your chequebook.
    2. Retiring on a Pension Plan
    3. Interview a senior citizen (but don’t tell them they are a senior citizen!) about how they planned for their retirement.
    4. OR interview a senior citizen about their best ideas for saving money.


Thank you for allowing us to share this with everyone today, Carla! I really do hope other teachers and schools are reading this right now…

What do you guys think?? A class you wish you had the opportunity to take growing up? (If they even had internet back then? (Heyo!))

If I ever become a teacher, I’ll have to merge some of this into my own imagined up course syllabus: How To Become a Millionaire, Son! Packed classroom every time, guaranteed ;)

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  1. Prudence Debtfree June 27, 2018 at 6:10 AM

    This is fantastic! I teach at a high school in Ontario too. Ms. Dempsey, do you mind if I plagiarize and share this with my school’s math department? How great that your students were actually engaged in this assignment. Not an easy thing to do when it comes to personal finances. A+ for you! Enjoy your summer :)
    (And Jay, “prudent” is a great word!)

    1. J. Money June 27, 2018 at 8:01 AM

      Haha, thanks Prudence ;)

      And yes to hopefully getting this shared in more places!! I’ve shot Carla a link to this so she can see everyone’s responses/questions.

  2. Lily | The Frugal Gene June 27, 2018 at 7:22 AM

    “Describe why these ideas are going the way of the dodo bird”
    Lol you’re so weird J.

    I’d take these classes in a heartbeat! Mrs. Dempsey really is a teacher of the year!! *applause* *applause*

  3. Sylvia @ Miss PF June 27, 2018 at 7:53 AM

    I also have a personal finance unit with my kiddos but not this in-depth! I love it! Keep up the great work! :) This NEEDS to be taught in schools, and my parents always thank me after this unit is done.

  4. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance June 27, 2018 at 8:00 AM

    I’ve read about so many tiny house stories lately that I automatically think about a tiny home whenever I see a school bus @_@

    The curriculum looks great and very practical. It helps the students familiarize themselves with personal finance and train them to think critically about their priorities in life. Great work!

  5. Lisa at Mad Money Monster June 27, 2018 at 8:32 AM

    Wow! This is wonderful. I’ve noticed that public schools in my area actually teaching personal finance, but nothing like this.

    I actually volunteered the other week to participate as a mentor in a full-day PF program for high school juniors. I couldn’t believe that no one could tell me how much they could expect to make given their career choice. Not a single child knew how much their chosen field pays. It was unbelievable. They really need this stuff. Nice work!


    1. J. Money June 27, 2018 at 10:10 AM

      AHHHH such a great way to volunteer your time!!! Love it!! Now replicate yourself and station one of you in every school in the country, please :)

  6. stephanie June 27, 2018 at 8:40 AM

    this is straight up awesome. I would LOVE it if my kids had to do this assignment in a few years. actually. . . .they probably will have to do this assignment in a few years. school o’ mom hard at work . . .

    1. J. Money June 27, 2018 at 10:11 AM

      Woop woop! Make it happen!

  7. Joe June 27, 2018 at 9:25 AM

    The kids are so lucky to have Ms. Dempsey. This is a real-world situation and they can learn a lot from it. The problem with academia is that most of it isn’t relevant to real life. This assignment is awesome and they will learn about personal finance, blogging, and more. Excellent.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2018 at 10:11 AM

      Exactly. And if they can’t relate, there’s no way they can get *excited* about any of it. Which let’s be honest – is pretty dry unless dressed up!

  8. Crazy Mom McGee June 27, 2018 at 9:38 AM

    Wow! What a fantastic list!!! My kid goes to public school, but we also give him an extensive homeschool curriculum – of things they don’t teach in school, or ones they teach at a later grade. I’m definitely going to incorporate this into next year’s curriculum. Actually, I think I’m going to go through it myself!!! And instead of picking and choosing a topic, we’re going to go over everything together. I’m excited for him to learn all this stuff and to learn some new things myself!

    1. J. Money June 27, 2018 at 10:13 AM

      YESS!!!! Please do and then come back and tell me/us how it went! :)

  9. Stevo June 27, 2018 at 9:50 AM

    This is awesome! This would’ve been a great head start! Hopefully this is the start of a revolution for teaching young people about real world finances. Props!

  10. Liz June 27, 2018 at 9:56 AM

    This is awesome. I forwarded it to one of our school board members and hope it inspires a similar program!

    1. J. Money June 27, 2018 at 10:14 AM

      Thank you so much!!! I really hope so too. Even if only bits and pieces get included it would make a world of a difference… We gotta make this stuff FUN for students as it affects their *entire lives*!

  11. Janet June 27, 2018 at 12:01 PM

    I went to high school in Ontario and we never had courses like this back then. I’m glad to see the improvement in our school curriculum. Thanks for posting :)

  12. Brian Brandow June 27, 2018 at 12:22 PM

    Love this! I’m sharing with my financial committee at my high school to see if our teachers would be interested in adopting. I think a student likes the idea of having some freedom of choosing assignments.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2018 at 1:41 PM

      Awesome – thanks man!! Let me know if they end up doing something with it :)

  13. Passivecanadianincome June 27, 2018 at 1:13 PM

    wow this is fantastic! And in my hometown to boot…. hopefully this will catch on and more teAchers will mimic this lesson plan, like one mentioned above.

    just great to see!


  14. Lindsey June 27, 2018 at 5:00 PM

    Can I take Ms. Dempsey’s class?!

    1. J. Money June 28, 2018 at 1:19 PM

      I bet if you take it on your own this summer she’ll grade it for you :)

  15. Josh June 27, 2018 at 7:45 PM

    Oh man! I hope they keep the blog going!

  16. Chris June 27, 2018 at 8:50 PM

    Ms. Dempsey definitely wins teacher of the year.

    Maybe it’s me but some of my younger cousins have told me they’re taking personal finance classes in high school. I’m glad more schools are making this type of class a requirement. Ms. Dempsey has the right approach to make the class more engaging than the norm.

  17. Slackerjo June 28, 2018 at 12:06 PM

    My 15 year old nephew wants to be a rich lawyer, with a big house and two cars. A sports car and a regular car for doing groceries cause doing groceries in a sports car is stupid.

    The good news is that we live in Ontario.

    1. J. Money June 28, 2018 at 1:20 PM

      I hope he’s saving all his pennies now!

  18. Frogdancer June 28, 2018 at 4:33 PM

    This is a fantastic idea. I particularly like the idea of giving the kids autonomy to follow their own interests, but by reporting back to the whole class then they all get to hear a smattering of information that will more than likely cover all bases, by the time a whole class gives their reports.
    I’d love to do this, but as a Theatre Studies and English teacher, my time is taken up by other, more ‘wordy’ concerns… onomatopoeia anyone?

    1. J. Money June 29, 2018 at 10:23 AM

      that used to be one of my favorite words! :)

  19. Grizzly Bear Finance June 29, 2018 at 12:43 AM

    I absolutely love this idea! Ever since leaving school it has always bothered me how little finance was touched on and how much seemingly every other topic was “required”. This teacher needs to cascade this idea to every school in America.

    1. Frogdancer June 29, 2018 at 8:31 AM

      LOL. I think she has enough to do teaching her own students, without laying the responsibility on her for teaching the whole of America!!

  20. Primal Prosperity July 2, 2018 at 3:25 PM

    Great idea! I saw there was a section on minimalism…

    One time when I was a substitute teacher, I made up a project for the 5th grade kids. I had them watch “The Story of Stuff” (20 minute free video online), then I broke them up into groups and had them pick an item and research the entire life cycle from extraction, manufacture, distribution, use and then disposal. Then they gave a presentation on what they found. When I asked what they learned, almost all seemed to agree to buy and get less stuff. They even said they would ask their parents to buy them less stuff for birthdays and holidays. I couldn’t believe it, I was blown away.

    Also, another good website for the older high schoolers could be this: This is run mostly by economists.

    1. J. Money July 2, 2018 at 3:35 PM

      LOVE THAT!!!

      Was it you who recommended that video to me the other week? I finally watched it with the baby late one night and couldn’t stop thinking about it for a week.. Finally had to stop because it was saddening me too much, haha… (but I did soak up the message and trying to implement more in my life!)

  21. paying for private school July 26, 2018 at 11:03 PM

    That is awesome!! Great assignment too (gets out pencil – I have some learning to do!)