With a new law in effect requiring Virginia high schools to educate students about finances, many parents might wrongly assume their children are learning all they need to know about money in the classroom and do not need to hear about the touchy subject of finances again at home. But the truth is, parents still need to discuss money with their children before they graduate from high school.

“Money is still one of the taboo subjects in this country, and research has shown that parents don’t discuss financial management with their children,” said Celia Hayhoe, family resource management specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension and a Certified Financial Planner®. “Financial educators hope that high school students in a financial literacy program ask their parents questions about how what they learned in the classroom relates to their family’s way of managing money at home.”

As parents make resolutions to save money this year, they may want to talk to their children about the importance of investing for their future and for unexpected expenses. “Because many financial transactions such as putting money in a retirement account are automatic, children often see their parents spending money but not saving it,” Hayhoe said.

With the addition of new state regulations for financial education in schools, the timing for parents to bring up the subject of money could not be better. In 2005, the General Assembly approved S.B. 950, which directs the Virginia Board of Education to “establish objectives for economic education and financial literacy” for all middle and high school students. Although middle schools already followed state-issued guidelines, the new measure extends the scope of this requirement to include high schools. The change went into effect at the beginning of the current school year.

Hayhoe explained that Extension agents provided financial programs for schools even before this year’s change. One example is the High School Financial Planning Program, a partnership between Virginia Cooperative Extension and the National Endowment for Financial Education, a non-profit foundation dedicated to helping all Americans acquire the information and gain the skills necessary to take control of their personal finances.

“Parents need to know how high schools are handling financial literacy in their curriculum,” Hayhoe said. “The Virginia Board of Education does not require schools to cover personal finance topics in a particular setting, so students may learn about it in a government or math class, for example.”

Some high schools that already cover personal finance in their curriculum may continue their current financial literacy program as long as it meets certain objectives, but other high schools that have never educated teenagers about money are developing a financial curriculum for the first time this year. All schools affected by the law have submitted a proposal explaining how they plan to meet the Virginia Board of Education’s requirements.

Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based agents, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 13 agricultural research and extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.