Finance courses help teens learn about the 'real world'

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News (From left): Beloit Memorial High School (BMHS) business education and family and consumer education teacher Tony Capozziello chats with Marisol Cobos about how to invest her money online.

BELOIT - "You have to learn not to buy stuff at some point."

That's what Beloit Memorial High School business education and family and consumer education teacher Tony Capozziello imparts to his students in a personal finance class they are required to take in order to graduate.

The School District of Beloit is one of the few school districts requiring students to take a personal finance course as a graduation requirement. Nationwide, only one in six students are required to take a personal finance course.

Beloit Memorial High School is among 887 high schools nationwide to receive a NextGen Personal Finance (NGPF) Gold Standard Recognition for guaranteeing that 100 percent of students will receive personal finance instruction by the year 2030.

Capozziello said Beloit has been ahead of the curve when it comes to teaching finance to students. The NGPF is a nonprofit whose mission is to bring financial education to every high school student in America.

Capozziello said NextGen Personal Finance offers up-to-date and cutting edge personal finance material he works to incorporate into his classes.

He said his students are eager to learn about how to earn and invest money.

"A lot of the kids see the value and really love it," he said.

In Capozziello's personal finance class juniors and seniors learn about compound interest, paychecks, taxes, renting, leases, investing in mutual funds, retirement planning and more in the nine-week class.

Some of his students are such big fans of the class, Capozziello continues to get follow-up questions from students after they leave school about everything from investing to renting an apartment.

Capozziello said he always stresses to students the importance of saving and self-denial of goods, as well as the value of compound interest and investment.

His students say they appreciate his frank and comical approach to talking about money and life.

"He's straight forward. He's bold and he keeps us engaged," said student Ivan Perez.

Perez, who works at the Beloit Club, said he learned how to better manage his money in the class. He has saved up money for a car and is now saving for college. The class, he said, has helped him learn how to buy stocks and bonds.

"'Mr. C gives very real life situations and examples of people who aren't managing their money," Perez said.

"He's funny and he's really helpful," said student Jillian Valk.

Valk, who works at PMP Americas, said she never spends money.

"I put it all in the bank and only take it out when I need it," Valk said.

She said Capozziello taught her how to better save and invest.

Student Marisol Cobos, who works at Walmart, said she has learned how to better manage her money and not to spend so much of it on food.

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