Tag Archives: financial education


Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Tuffa Said

Through the H&R Block Budget Challenge learning financial literacy is both fun and applicable to real life! If you don’t believe us, just ask Paxon School for Advanced Studies senior Tuffa Said.

By paying his bills on time and being financially savvy, Said climbed to the top of the ranks in the simulation and won a $20,000 college scholarship. He is also part of the Life Smarts club coached by Ms. Kathryn Loggie, which won a $5,000 classroom grant.

Read below to learn more about his experience.

Did you have any knowledge about managing money before participating in the Budget Challenge?

I had a very small amount of financial knowledge before the Budget Challenge. I mostly learned what I knew from the Life Smarts club and my teacher Ms. Loggie.

Do you ever talk to your parents about money? If so, what kind of things do you talk about?

I’ve started to do it more recently. Since I’m going to the university, we talk about tax returns, what forms are required and how to fill out the FAFSA correctly.

Was this your first year participating in the Budget Challenge?

No, I participated last year as well. This year I made sure I paid my auto insurance!

When you started the simulation, did you think you would win?

At first I was really determined to win. Then, in the middle I realized that the bills were starting to appear and that kind of threw me of. I really couldn’t believe it when I saw that I was winning toward the end of the simulation!

What would you say was the biggest thing you learned by participating in the Budget Challenge?

To pay my auto insurance on time! But fortunately, I don’t pay auto insurance in real life, my parents pay it for me.

How have you taken the financial skills you learned and applied them to your real life?

I’ve encouraged my parents to pay their bills on time! It also helped to ensure that I don’t go into credit card debt.

Where do you plan on continuing your education?

I plan on going to the University of North Florida to study electrical engineering.

How has the scholarship changed your financial outlook when it comes to college?

The scholarship will help me focus on my schoolwork rather than having to worry about how I’m going to pay for school.

Now that you’re a financial whiz, do you plan on passing along your wisdom to your friends?

No! I want to keep it all to myself (laughs).


Who’s a Bitcoin and Where Can I Facebook Him?

Have you ever heard your teens talking about Bitcoin and thought, “Oh, great—not another video game”?

If so, then you’ve been greatly misinformed. Yes, Bitcoin is a product of the Internet age and is used solely within the digital sphere, but it is not a video game. It’s also not a social media platform, mobile app or new dance craze.

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency—a.k.a. cryptocurrency—created and held electronically that operates independently of a central bank and its regulations. Being that it’s a decentralized currency free from the control of one institution or government, its value is derived from the relationship between its supply and demand.

This is all very confusing and quite abstract, we understand. But the simple truth is that teens can buy and use Bitcoin on the Internet to purchase just about anything. There are no age restrictions in place to purchase Bitcoins, and for a younger generation that operates almost exclusively on the Internet, it’s more than likely they’ll come across an opportunity to get involved with it.

So what should you, the parent, know about Bitcoin? We’ve distilled the info and packaged it into bite-sized pros and cons.


  1. Allows teens to make purchases online

In most jurisdictions, an individual must be 18 years of age to make a purchase on online. That means your teen will either get a hold of your credit card with no restrictions (yikes!) or you’ll have to monitor each and every purchase (also yikes!). With Bitcoin, a teen can spend a specific amount and receive a corresponding amount of bitcoins in return, regardless of age. There’s no immediate risk of overspending.

  1. Teaches teens practical personal financial skills

Budgeting is engrained in this system. Teens have to decide what is worthy of their bitcoins. Additionally, all bitcoins are encrypted with the history of each and every purchase, meaning frivolous purchases will never be forgotten and hopefully can teach meaningful lessons. This system of spending also provides more independence, which might work well with some teens that resent being constantly monitored by parents.

  1. Encourages entrepreneurships

Teens can actually earn bitcoins using their skills—just like a job. The Internet isn’t as ageist as the real world, so if a 13 year old can do computer programming as good or better than a 35 year old, then they can be hired and paid in Bitcoin. Freelance writers, gamers and programmers are regularly being paid in Bitcoin for their services. The value of ability and competence is valued more highly in this space than experience/wisdom/degrees.


  1. The dollar value of bitcoins is volatile

Fluctuation is the name of the game here. Within a two-year span, the price of Bitcoin went from under $100 to over $1,000. The current price of Bitcoin on the market as of this writing it $375. What this means in normal person terms: a bitcoin that bought you a DVD on Amazon yesterday won’t necessarily be able to buy you a piece of gum tomorrow. Additionally, there is only a finite amount available. This gets complex as well, but the basic fact is there will only ever be 21 million bitcoins in existence, with close to 15 million of them still unreleased to the general public.

  1. Only 2 percent of merchants currently accept Bitcoin

That 2 percent equates to 160,000 digital merchants, so there are places to use Bitcoin. It’s frustrating, but don’t expect to be able to use it everywhere. Additionally, if more merchants don’t begin adopting Bitcoin payment, the overall value could potentially take a hit.

  1. Can be used for not-so-reputable dealings

While some see and use Bitcoin as a way to fund some shady dealings, the big picture view is that they’re better used as an investment tool. Some analysts have made optimistic predictions that by 2025 one Bitcoin will be worth $17,473. That would provide a handsome return to current Bitcoin owners.

However, your teen can still use Bitcoin for smaller payment transactions. It’s a fun foray into money management that could give them insight into an emerging form of currency that could very well become commonplace in our society.


The Dollar Doesn’t Fall Far from the Money Tree: Making Sure Your Teen Doesn’t Pick up Your Bad Financial Habits

Think back to when you were a bright-eyed teen. Do you remember where you acquired the personal finance skills that would serve as your foundation for saving, spending and investing as an adult?

If you were lucky, you learned what you know from your parents. Otherwise, you probably picked up tidbits here and there through trial and error.

Even with a whole new generation of soon-to-be-adults out there with an appetite for money management, studies show the majority of them are still learning from their parents due to a lack of in-school financial literacy education. That leaves you in the role of parent/teacher.

All of those decisions you made with your money are now useful teaching tools in steadying your teen on the right track from the get-go. If you never quite learned proper financial literacy yourself, now’s your chance to clean the slate and start anew alongside your teen.

These three tips will help you and your teen build a strong financial literacy base:

  1. Don’t forget to save

Any responsible adult will agree that saving money is important. This key component to effective financial literacy spans the gamut: saving for personal items like clothes or entertainment; keeping enough funds in the bank for essential items like a car or rent; stashing away enough for retirement and beyond. If you’re not saving, you’ll eventually run into trouble. Yet, according to a Federal Reserve Board study, 47 percent of Americans would not be able to cover an emergency expense of $400 without borrowing money or selling something for money. Don’t let your teen be one of the 47 percent. Urge them to save early and often to avoid harrowing times when an emergency arises.

  1. Don’t forgo other essentials

When money is tight, some people will deprioritize certain aspects of their lives in order to pay the most pressing bill. The same Federal Reserve Board study reported that 31% of their respondents went without some form of healthcare in 2014 because they couldn’t afford it. Not only does this fact highlight the importance of savings, it also stresses the need to sacrifice non-essential items if needed. Your teen should be made aware that medical treatment is ultimately more important than the newest iPhone.

  1. Communication is key

You may think you’ve been doing a good job as parent/teacher, but what does your teen say? A Time article claims that while 73 percent of parents say they regularly talk to their kids about saving and spending, only 61 percent of kids agree with that sentiment. So before giving yourself teacher-of-the-year award, make sure your teen understands what you’re saying and can apply the learnings in practical setting. One easy way to accomplish this is by not forking over cash for your teen’s luxury items, for instance if your teen wants to go to a concert, make sure they can earn cash either through a part-time job or even household chores.


Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Classroom Grant Winner: Mr. Deane Western

How do you get your students excited about personal finance? After two years of participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge, Deane Western, a 10th grade economics and government teacher at the State College of Florida Collegiate School, knows how.

Two of Western’s students won $20,000 college scholarships this year through their hard work. We spoke with him to learn more about how his students enjoyed the simulation and if he’d recommend the program to other teachers.

What was your motivation behind getting your class involved in the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

I’ve got basically one semester to teach students both economics and personal finance and the simulation is perfect for teaching it. The curriculum spends time talking about insurance and credit cards, and all the pieces just lined up perfectly for me to teach personal finance. It brings the knowledge to my students in a tangible way.

Do you see a need for teaching financial literacy at your school?

Yes. It’s huge, particularly for our students, because they’re in 10th grade and it’s the perfect window to teach them those skills. A lot of kids are starting jobs and are on a college campus where they simultaneously earn their associates degree and high school diploma. Right now is when they’re making the transition to working, driving and being on a college campus. When experiencing that type of independence, having personal finance knowledge is crucial.

How did you use the curriculum in your classroom?

This year, I broke it down and spent a day each week doing nothing else but talking about the elements relating to the Budget Challenge. At the beginning of each class, we’d talk about what’s going on in the simulation. The students had a lot of fun with it.

How did you motivate your students to participate?

I told them that if they learned the information, it would pay off in immeasurable ways, both financially and in other ways. You win so much more than $20,000 by participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge. You learn the skills and education you need.

Have you noticed any feedback from the students’ parents?

Absolutely. One opportunity I give my students is to actually go home and interview their parents about their financial mistakes. I’m hoping that conversation is enlightening for both of them. I read on the H&R Block Dollars & Sense website how many teens learn financial skills from their parents, and I hope there’s an opportunity to learn from those mistakes.

What was the most rewarding part of having your students participate?

Some students were ranked as high as No. 10 at one point in time before they were late on a bill or something, but that was really exciting. This year I had two students who finished at No. 14 and No. 16 and it was just so exciting at the end there to see them perform so well.

How has winning college scholarships changed your students’ plans for continuing their education?

Given the collegiate school we’re at, the students have an opportunity to get their associates degree basically tuition-free; there’s another school that makes an arrangement to pick up the expense for their next two years of education. But after winning, one student said, “No, this makes a difference. I can go to a better ranked undergraduate school, which will then help me complete my bachelor’s degree.” That will then in turn help them get into a better medical school.

Do you think there needs to be some required financial education classes in school across the country?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that I think it’s ridiculous that students have to take Algebra I and II, Geometry…a lot of math courses all throughout school, and I only have half a year to teach them personal finance. The number of careers that use geometry is so low, but 100 percent of people need to understand personal finance.

Would you recommend the simulation to other teachers?

One hundred percent yes. Other teachers at my school totally want their students to learn this stuff, too!


3 Big-Ticket Items Teens Save Up For That Also Have Hidden Costs

There comes a time in every teen’s life when their interests and hobbies outgrow the realm of childhood and enter into a mature landscape of adulthood. The only problem is their maturing interests develop faster than their financial literacy skills.

Despite their best efforts to save money toward expensive items they intend to buy , most teens fail to account for the additional, and sometimes hidden, costs associated with these purchases.

Here are three big-ticket items many teens will save up for without considering the additional costs.

Cell Phone

Today’s cell phones are used for more than strictly making phone calls, but that doesn’t mean your teen should buy one simply for its camera capabilities. A data plan is a necessary evil, and the average monthly bill can range upwards of $100, according to U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, there are the expenses to insure a phone, not to mention all the bells and whistles teens will surely want to add on. What all this means is after your teen has saved up money for the physical phone they will need to continue their thrifty ways on a month-to-month basis if they want to keep their phone operational.


When it comes to ditching the “little kid” status, owning a car is just about the quickest route for teens. But cars are a big responsibility, and the associated costs back that up. Right off the bat there’s car insurance, which the DMV says averages close to $900 a year. There’s no grey area here—if your teen wants to be on the road they MUST have car insurance. Then there’s gas, which is fairly important if your teen wants to actually drive anywhere. (Parents might be fine with a car that never leaves the driveway though.) And don’t forget how costly it is when—not if, when—the car needs repairs. Teens should be aware that car ownership is an ongoing responsibility.


It’s more than likely that your teen already has access to a home computer. It’s also more than likely your teen wants their own fancier version. That’s fine as long as they understand that without paying the additional costs, they’ll be able to use it for games of solitaire and little else. Most software comes with a price tag (think Microsoft Office), as does hardware (mouse, printer, speakers). Then there’s virus protection and a warranty, which is recommended if your teen wants to get the most out of their purchase.

Maybe you’re covering all of these costs for your teen, and maybe you’re not. It’s safe to say most parents will fall somewhere in the middle. Encourage your teen to research additional costs when they begin the process of saving. It will save them from disappointment later on, which will save you from having to hear about how unfair it all is.

Teens’ First Jobs and Spending Habits [VIDEO]

How do teens earn their money, and what do they spend their hard-earned cash on? What financial advice from parents do they follow, if any? H&R Block Dollars & Sense hits the streets to find out how influential an open parent/child dialogue is in in reinforcing good money management skills.



Clements High School H&R Block Budget Challenge Winners Receive Their Checks! [GALLERY]

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2015, Clements High School seniors Angela Lin and Jonathan Chang were each awarded a $20,000 college scholarship and their teacher, Mr. Greg Eppes, received a classroom grant from the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Check out photos from the event and help us congratulate them on their hard work!


Matt Tetreau

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Matt Tetreau

Hard work and long-term planning pay off when taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Don’t believe us? Just ask Matt Tetreau from St. Clair High School in Michigan who won a $20,000 scholarship. We spoke with him to learn more about how he was so successful!

Growing up, did you see a need for financial literacy and education among your classmates?

I really think that it’s valuable information, especially since next year many of us will have student loans. Many kids my age don’t really know too much about student loans or living on their own. That’s what inspired me to take Mrs. Volz’s class where we took the Budget Challenge.

Where did your previous financial education come from? Did you take any classes prior to Mrs. Volz’s?

No I didn’t. I didn’t ever really talk to my parents about money either. I’m not much of a spender. During the simulation, I learned almost everything I know though through the class or on my own.

Do you think that the simulation taught you the real world money skills that you need to be successful?

Absolutely. I feel like I can budget on my own now, whereas before I don’t know if I would have been able to manage.

What do you think was the recipe to your success that helped you win the scholarship?

I checked the Budget Challenge every day and made sure that my budget was balanced. I tried a bunch of different strategies and tried to find the strategy that would save me the most money on my budget.

How often did you tweak your budget throughout the simulation?

In the beginning, I planned it all out by how I thought it’d work out — but that didn’t work because unexpected things came up in the Budget Challenge where I had to make refinements. We had one unexpected event to deal with, and our credit card expenses were pretty unpredictable at times. We didn’t know how much we’d get charged for the event, so we had to account for that as well.

Did you work together with your classmates through the simulation?

I actually did work with some. It was really valuable working together and bouncing ideas off each other. Some of my classmates proposed strategies that I didn’t initially think of — and I came up with ways to play that helped others. I think that sharing of ideas among a few of my classmates was part of my success.

What did your parents think when you told them you were taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

I told them about the simulation, and they were pretty into it as well. They were asking me what was going on and how I was doing.

How has winning this scholarship changed your post-graduation plans?

I always planned on going to college, but I didn’t plan how I would pay for it. So the scholarship definitely helps.

Where do you plan on going to college and using your scholarship?

I plan on going to Michigan or Grand Valley State and studying computer science. I want to probably be a computer programmer or similar type of job.

Would you recommend this simulation to other students? Why?

Going into this, I didn’t know much at all about budgeting. I learned so much information that will help me throughout my life. I honestly think that every high school student should participate in something like that or at least take a class related to it.

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.


What Teachers Are Saying About the H&R Block Budget Challenge

We’ve wrapped up another semester of the H&R Block Budget Challenge and ushered in another batch of high schoolers who have mastered the art of personal finance. See what our winning teachers from last semester have to say about their classes’ participation and get involved in the next simulation by registering here!

  • The class stated they saw a real life connection to understanding the material. They have a competitive nature, and as they saw their ranking improve it drove them to work harder. Thank you again for this opportunity; it really does help students apply key concepts! –Erica Pavlik, Nequa Valley High School
  • My accounting class enjoyed learning how to manage their money in a “real-world” atmosphere, and they now feel better about doing it on their own. Also, they enjoyed the competition aspect of the H&R Block Budget Challenge, especially, when one of the students placed 24th! He was so heartbroken at missing a scholarship by two places, so we are going to have a huge pizza party! Thank you H&R Block for sponsoring and giving these students this great opportunity! – Chris Spurlock, Sikeston Career & Technology Center
  • I teach an Intro to Business class at a small school in rural Indiana. The students are very competitive and have a great sense of community. They loved seeing their team name on the leaderboard and their national ranking. I believe their success came from planning and checking and tweaking their spreadsheets throughout the challenge. – Cheri Jesionowski, Adams Central High School
  • Thank you for allowing my accounting students to participate in the Budget Challenge! This has been a super exciting event where learning has truly evolved. Personal finance knowledge is critical for young people to know, and there never seems to be enough time for students to fit these courses in their schedule. The students in this class were certainly happy they were a part of this. Attendance and class engagement were at an all-time high during the simulation. We wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. – Kim Rider, Kinder High School
  • I am a huge fan of what you are doing. I think participating in the Budget Challenge gives students the opportunity to learn money management techniques and deal with a variety of issues in a safe environment. – Jennifer Jordan, Madeira High School
  • The first thing the students wanted to do each day of class was log on to the Budget Challenge to check their rank and the class rank and then pay any bills due. It was a great experience. – Laura DePue, Fredonia Central High School
  • Budgeting is best learned through doing it. Creating a budget and paying bills is a difficult task to learn and can have detrimental consequences. I used to and will continue to use the simulation because it teaches students lessons in a way that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives. – Sherry Brown, Guntersville High School
  • I loved the real world aspects of the simulation. It just can’t get better than having real invoices, real emails, real ‘accidents’, real penalties. – Neva Allen, Knob Noster High School
  • I REALLY enjoyed the simulation. I liked the quick email responses, the curve balls, the virtual reality of the simulation. – Lenny Briones, Michael E. DeBakey High School

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

(Photo provided by Amanda Volz)

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Classroom Grant Winner: Ms. Amanda Volz

St. Clair High School teacher Amanda Volz knows a thing or two about what it takes to lead a class of money management masters. Not only did her class last year include H&R Block Budget Challenge grand prize winner Sean Lawrence, six of her students this year won scholarships, along with a $5,000 classroom grant. We caught up with her to find out how she keeps her students motivated in the program and why she’d recommend it to others.

You’ve had two straight years with high-performing students involved in the program. What’s your secret?

I’m fortunate enough to teach the inclusive personal finance class. My financial management class is year-long and we cover all the personal finance topics, so we talk about budgeting, credit, how to deal with mortgages, etc. So, this is content that I purposely tie to the simulation. My students are graded on the quizzes they take, and their participation is recorded so that’s definitely a positive for me that I’m teaching those exact concepts in my class.

How did you include the simulation in your curriculum?

This year I taught it as more of project-based learning format. Last year I did it as more of a culminating project using the concepts I teach. The Budget Challenge was a great support to the curriculum I already teach, and students were learning as they improved. My students were constantly asking questions as they progressed.

What were your students’ reactions when you told them they’d be participating in the program?

They were very into it and started making their budgets and talking to their parents. They knew at the beginning they had to make some really good decisions to hopefully win the scholarship. I know that 100 percent of my class found value in the simulation even though some of them may not have been into it as much as the other students in the Budget Challenge.

How did you motivate your students to participate in the simulation?

All of my kids that won scholarships this year were very engaged, so they didn’t get lazy at any point and used the budgeting tools that were provided by the Budget Challenge. They were strategic and worked together, bouncing ideas off each other, and reminding each other of certain things. I think having a grand-prize winner last year was a huge motivator for my classes this year to see that winning is a possibility for them. One of the ways I introduced the simulation this year was by showing footage of last year and how Sean Lawrence went on to win and I think that was really effective.

Did you get any feedback from your students’ parents?

I’ve gotten so much positive feedback from parents about how their son or daughter was really talking about these concepts at home with them. I think the Budget Challenge was increasing a lot of dialogue at home and a lot of good comments from parents about making personal finance fun. This program is game-based so it makes the process fun.

What did you find most rewarding when including the H&R Block Budget Challenge in your teaching?
I really like that students are taking exactly what they’re learning in my class and the simulation and applying it to their daily lives. I think that’s a huge reward. There’s never any question of “When am I ever going to use this?”

What’s your stance on financial courses in high schools? Do you think they should be required?

Most definitely. I think finance is a major part of everyone’s lives. These are household skills that help our economy. One of the most rewarding parts of teaching this is how kids see the value in all this information that they’re learning.

Would you recommend this program to other teachers?

I definitely recommend the program. I have not found another program that better simulates the money management concept. I think it’s great that everything happens in real time, too. It’s very hands-on and relevant. The game-based aspect of it makes it fun for the students and the scholarship money — that’s a life-changing amount of money for someone to win. It’s also available at no cost to teachers.

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.