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River Falls School Teacher Stresses Financial Literacy

“I tell my students at the beginning of all my classes that everything I teach has real-world application,” says Chris Silver.

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Silver is business and computer teacher at River Falls High School. In his real world, teachings students how to handle money is extremely important.
Why? Because Silver sees a worrisome trend concerning young adults and debt.

Statistics tell the story:

According to, more than 75% of renters between the ages of 18 and 24 spend more than they earn every month. And more than 20% of those overspent by $100 every month.
A study from Ohio State University found that young adults are racking up credit card debt at a faster rate than other age group and they’re slower to pay it off.
Silver is trying to reverse those trends by including personal finance course work in various classes.

“We want to make sure all students get this,” he said. “Ideally every student would get it in some class. But it is a challenge to make sure they do.”

One way Silver teaches personal finance is with a program called Banzai. It’s online and Silver says the program “creates” an entry level job for students and the expenses they must pay throughout the month.

The Banzai program also includes some unexpected expenses — just like real life.

For example, the student gets to buy an $80 ticket to a concert but gets hurt at the concert and incurs medical bills.

Says Silver: “Students are often surprised at how much they overspend during the first Banzai round. They are challenged by reconciling daily living expenses with an entry-level wage.

“They underestimate costs, especially the cost of fast food and eating out. Then we do it a few more times and they do a better job.”

WESTconsin Credit Union is the sponsor of the Banzai program.

“It’s fun and engaging. It speaks to students — not mom and dad,” says Tara Bergesen at WESTconsin.

Banzai is also used at Wisconsin Indian Technical College. This is a letter, Bergesen received from an instructor there:

“I will be using those books in my math classes this spring in a new unit on financial literacy. The number one reason students leave WITC is money management (or mismanagement) so learning to manage the money they do have is a valuable skill.

Bergeson says one the biggest pitfalls for students are credit cards. “After students graduate high school, they get an onslaught of credit card applications,” she said. “And this can cause a whole lot of trouble.”

Indeed, according to the CRC Health website, “Over half of all college students acquire their first credit card as freshmen and by graduation, 83% have a card.

“More than 80% incur some credit card debt before they graduate, with 45% owing more than $3,000.”

Teachers interested in using the Banzai program can visit or call 888-8-BANZAI.

Banzai interactive courses are fun and FREE. Go ahead.