Personal Finance Lesson for HS Seniors, Days away from Graduation.

After juniors, seniors are my favorite age to teach.  Seniors are confident, funny, and excited about their futures.  For me, the downside of teaching seniors is the spring time after college decisions and AP testing.  Their motivation understandably drops, and it becomes miserable trying to keep their attention in May.  Days in November are fun and time goes by quickly, when I am challenging their minds with conservation of energy concepts.

Many of my colleagues turn to projects in May, because teachers can’t handle talking to students who aren’t listening. Some of us give huge projects, and let the seniors work independently or in groups.

My AP physics class has done things such as throw Frisbees The Frisbee Lab, kick soccer balls the projectile lab, Jenga tournament test structures, and Texas Hold’em statistics lab.  We’ve been amazed at the movie Apollo 13, and laughed at the absurdity of the movie Gravity.

I decided to take a break from pretending to be doing physics, and attempt to teach about finances today.  I have seen posts by bloggers complaining about the absence of personal finance education in schools.  My son JumpStart Jack is a senior, and is currently taking my physics class and a required course personal finance course.  I occasionally throw out random questions like “What is a mortgage escrow?”, and JS Jack generally knows the definitions.  Although he answers slowly with a questioning, unsure tone to his voice.  I get the sense that these concepts will be forgotten by next Fall.

The following is today’s AP PHY assignment, and I didn’t even bother pretending it was a physics assignment.  It begins with a Mr.MoneyMustache video, and follows with questions.  I’ll report later on how the lesson goes.

AP PHY Assignment: Days before Graduation.

 Watch the Mr. Money Mustache video at the following link.

Link to video.

I expect you to answer all of these questions on paper, and show work.  Your answers are none of my business, but if you want I am open to discuss anything.  When you are finished, I will not collect this paper.  You can keep it, or throw it away.  

  1. Calculate net cost of your chosen college for the first year. List all expenses.  Subtract all scholarships, and grants.  Do not subtract loans.
  2. Determine number of hours in class during the freshman year.
  3. Determine cost per hour of class.
  4. If your answer to #3 doesn’t make you think “Holy %&$#?@!!”, then you either earned a great scholarship, or calculated something wrong. If needed go back and revisit your answers.
  5. Everyone is allowed to borrow $5500 their freshman year. Sometimes it is subsidized and sometimes not.  Subsidized loans begin repayment after graduation and are interest free.  Unsubsidized loans also begin repayment after graduation, but begin collecting interest immediately.  Your financial aid package shows which type of loan you were offered, and it might be a combination.
  6. Look up the current interest rate on federal student loans, and calculate how much will be owed 4 years later if you borrowed $5500 with an unsubsidized federal loan.
  7. The correct answer in to question #6 was $6434 when using a 4.0% interest rate. Find an online loan calculator and determine your monthly payment, total interest paid, and total paid in order to borrow, and pay for that $5500 freshman loan over 10 years.
  8. Let the answers to #7 sink in, and remember that was only 5500$ from freshman year. Calculate your age after college graduation and 10 years.
  9. I would argue that you shouldn’t do this, but kids commonly graduate college, get a real job, and immediately “reward” themselves with a new car. Look up the price of the new car you think you might buy.
  10. Look up the price of a 5 year old used car, in the model you just picked.
  11. Compare the answers to 9 and 10. Use a loan calculator to estimate and compare monthly payments.
  12. Realize the awesome, new car you just picked will be a 4 year old used car when you graduate.
  13. Look up the cost of rent for an apartment, in a city, you picture yourself living in after graduation.
  14. Add up the monthly loan payment from #7, a car payment, rent, and 300$ for food (10$ per day).
  15. Compare #13 with your expected monthly income after graduation.

If there are suggestions for questions I should add, leave them in the comments.

After photocopying the assignment, I saw a glaring point missing from the assignment.

Question #14 only included 4 expenses.  Remember taxes, insurance, gas, utilities, cell phone, travel, Christmas presents, and loans from the other 3 years of college.

Posted in Uncategorized.


  1. This is wonderful! I wish I had you as a physics teacher in school.

    Maybe you could throw in a question about savings. If they invest $5,500/year starting in 4 years, what would the projected value be in 25 years or something like that.

  2. I know students have done savings with interest curves in their personal finance class and in their math classes. Pairing that info with Roth IRA benefits might be something for lesson #2.

    Many kids spent the class looking up the price of really cool cars.

    • Yeah, I was leaning towards the Roth IRA.

      Figures! Hopefully they were sticker shocked and will save their money instead. 🙂

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