Please Include Student Loans in Your Lessons!!!!

Connecting the dots on a weekend and thinking about recent student loan news. Most standard personal finance courses spend way too little time on this issue of student loans and more broadly paying for college. Why? One major reason is the national standards have not emphasized this issue of college finance (see how many times you find “college” and “student loans” in this 52 page document).

So, what are the dots that I am connecting and why the imperative to include in your curriculum? 1) almost 50% of student loan borrowers are struggling; 2) the fastest growing segment of student loan market is over 60; 3) the largest student loan servicer is being sued for“systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.” Kinda makes you wonder how much #3 contributes to #1 but I digress:

NGPF Product Launch: NGPF Releases Revamped Savings Unit

I am so proud of the NGPF team (Jessica, Sonia, Laura, Ren, Sid and Niko) that has worked feverishly to deliver a revamped Saving Unit that we released tonight. Why do we continue to revamp our lessons? The short answer can be found in our culture of continuous improvement as we are always looking for ways to make our lessons stronger (your feedback is critical in this process). Here is the longer answer: 

Question: How Much Do Banks Earn From Overdraft Charges?

Answer: Billions!

Happy New Year! Welcome back to school. I know that banking tends to be a unit that many of you teach early in the semester so this data should prove particularly timely. I have posted on this topic several times but have some new data to report about the three largest U.S. banks and their fees from overdraft charges (from Financial Times, subscription required):


This quarterly data on the three largest banks shows how fees tend to grow over the course of the year as evidenced by the quarterly data from 2015. So, back to the question about how much they are charging for overdrafts…Let’s make the math easy and say $400mm per quarter or $1.6 billion a year for each of the three banks totaling $4.8 billion for the three of them combined. Some other nuggets from the FT article:

Question: What Percentage of Millennials Write Checks?

This one surprised me. Maybe we should continue to teach check-writing after all!

Answer (from Qualtrics survey): 42%

Do your students know more about money than a 29-year-old?

I meant to strike while the iron was hot, while this NY Times article, I’m 29 and I never learned how money works. It’s time to fix that., was all over my social media feed in mid-October. Whelp — It’s 7 weeks later, and here I am. Better late than never I suppose (that’s why Tim is the master blogger around NGPF, not me).

I like that the article exists, but I don’t like the idea of just giving it to my (hypothetical) students to read. It covers FAR too many topics in too much detail to be a concentrated “intro to personal finance,” and it seems silly to have your students read and take notes on it if they’ve never learned any of this stuff before (how will they even know what is “important?) or if they’ve learned it all before (why are they taking notes if they already know all this?). So, what would picky Jessica do with this awesome article? Here are a few of my ideas:

  1. Pull out the questions (sometimes they have follow-up questions embedded), and use it as a pre-test at the beginning of the term and a post-test at the end. Of

Question: What Percentage of Millennials Have Credit Cards?

Answer (hat tip to Sarah Tavel of Greylock again): Only 37%. 



Check out this NGPF Activity in which students are given consumer profiles and asked to determine whether or not they should get a credit card. Also, this NGPF Case Study: Tale of Two Credit Scores provides students with information on alternative ways to establish a credit history.


Question: What Role Should Work Play In Your Lives?

A great question for your students to ponder before diving into your Career unit. The impetus for this question came from a story I heard on the Marketplace podcast:

While listening, ask your students to listen:

Interactive: Grappling With The Ethics of Self-Driving Cars

Skimming this FT article about Apple’s efforts in the autonomous vehicle market, I was intrigued with the introduction of ethics into the conversation:

Apple urges the regulator to continue “thoughtful exploration of the ethical issues” of self-driving cars.

“Because automated vehicles promise such a broad and deep human impact, companies should consider the ethical dimensions of them in comparably broad and deep terms,” Apple writes. These considerations include privacy, how the cars’ software systems make decisions and the impact on employment and public spaces, it says.

As the technology gets closer to adoption, I expect the focus will shift to the ethical implications, especially this idea of how the software systems will make decisions. Which makes this next resource so engaging. Here is a fascinating interactive developed by the MIT Media Lab which forces students to grapple with these ethical issues. The 45 second video above explains the simulation in greater detail (440,000 views after just three months!):