Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is joining other statewide agencies in an effort to increase personal financial literacy in K-12 students on the Western Slope and across Colorado.
More than 100 teachers attended the first "Personal Finance and How to Teach It" workshop at Colorado Mesa University this week to learn how to teach money management to students of all ages and in different subject areas.
Coffman said her office frequently deals with people who try to scam unsuspecting consumers out of their money and investments.
"We started thinking about, instead of dealing with this on the back end and making sure we put these people in jail when they've committed a crime, how do we help consumers know enough not to fall for something that sounds too good to be true?" Coffman said. "That evolved into how we teach financial literacy at a younger age, and we realized kids are sponges for this stuff."
Coffman's mission coincides with new personal financial literacy standards approved by the state Board of Education this spring, which will be implemented in Colorado classrooms over the next two years.
CMU Business Professor Morgan Bridge told teachers that helping students be financially literate can have broad impacts.
"Economic and financial literacy makes a difference for students personally, it makes a difference for their families, it makes a difference for them professionally and I think ultimately it's going to make a difference to us as a nation and our region," Bridge said. "This is stuff that will actually change lives."
Many of the lessons at Tuesday's workshop rang true for Suzanne Deane, a fourth-grade math teacher from Cortez.
"I feel like our students are so unaware of the money that they'll need to make as adults," Deane said. "I come from a high-poverty area, and students don't really have an idea of how expensive their lives will be and how not receiving an education impacts the number of choices they have when they grow up."
Deane said the sessions also made her think about her own finances.
"I have five kids and I want to talk to all of them today about saving for retirement," she said.
Kimberly Basham, a family and consumer sciences teacher at Fruita 8-9 School, said she was struck by how personal finance can be connected to a variety of subjects.
"It really is a topic that affects so many other areas, and you really do have to start thinking earlier than ever about it to get to your financial goals," she said.
In addition to the statewide workshops, which will continue next year, the attorney general's office is helping to fund a new position at the Colorado Department of Education that will help teachers incorporate financial literacy into lessons.