December 2014

Financial Literacy and Economic Education Information for Pennsylvania Teachers
New Model Personal Finance Curriculum for Pennsylvania Schools Announced

(L to R) Hilary Hunt, Mary Ann Buckley, Mandy Singer, Lisa Golding, and Kheila Dunkerly at the SAS Institute
The state's new Model Personal Finance Curriculum for grades PK-12 along with a Model High School Personal Finance Course are now available on the Pennsylvania Department of Education's (PDE) Standards Aligned System (SAS) website. The model was unveiled this week at PDE's annual SAS Institute in Hershey. Pennsylvania teachers and administrators are encouraged to review the models as they review their efforts to integrate personal finance and/or offer a standalone personal finance course at the high school level. 


To access the materials, educators need to first log-in to the SAS website. From the Teacher Tools menu proceed to Curriculum Mapping and then select the PA Standards instructional Frameworks: Personal Finance.  

The model curriculum provides overarching long-term transfer goals and six big ideas with essential questions, core concepts and competencies and alignment to the academic standards. Grade band and grade level summaries are offered for grades Pre-Kindergarten through eight. For the high school level, a complete model course is available with six modules - one for each big idea - and pacing recommendations for a one-semester course. 


The big ideas/modules are:

  • Money Management 
  • Earning Income
  • Borrowing Money
  • Financial Services
  • Risk Management
  • Saving and Investing  
For more information about the model curriculum or to discuss how to use or implement it in your school, please contact Hilary Hunt, Project Coordinator.
Webinar Series Continues in 2015

Pennsylvania teachers and administrators are encouraged to learn more about implementing the new Model Curriculum for Pennsylvania Financial Education Programs on the 2014-2015 Making Cents webinar series. Each webinar provides valuable content information as well as free curriculum resources to help teach the core concepts and reach competency in all six big idea areas.  Mark your calendars with the dates below and register now. A separate registration is required for each session.


All Making Cents webinars are available at no charge. Two sessions will be held each day to accommodate various schedules: 3:00pm - 4:30pm and 6:30pm - 8:00pm.  


The upcoming January 29th webinar will feature U.S. Bankruptcy court Judge Mary D. France speaking about debt issues and a representative of the Hands on Banking financial education program. 


DateBig IdeaCurriculum Resource
1/29Borrowing Money 
Hands on Banking 
2/18Financial Services
Bank and Credit Union Resources
3/12Risk ManagementNext Generation
4/22Saving and InvestingTBA


If you missed previous webinars, check them out in the archive of the Making Cents Project website.

Resource Spotlight: Thrive 'n Shine


Thrive 'n Shine is a mobile game that empowers teens with money management skills. Teens describe the game as a mash-up between Candy Crush and The Sims - both highly used and enjoyed games. By playing Thrive 'n Shine, students interact with numerous financial concepts, including budgeting, saving, taxes, student loans, etc. A trailer of the game is available here


Thrive 'n Shine is a product of Oakland, CA-based MindBlown Labs, an award-winning, education technology company that creates highly-engaging, experiential learning tools that empower young adults with financial capability skills.  It was recognized as one of Entrepreneur Magazine's "Brilliant 100 Companies of 2013" and is part of co.lab, an education technology accelerator co-founded by NewSchools Venture Fund and Jason Young, its CEO, was recently appointed to President Obama's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans.


MindBlown Labs has been recognized as one of the most innovative financial capability companies and was recently awarded a $610,000 research contract by the United States Treasury Department from its Financial Empowerment Innovation Fund.  As part of the contract, an independent team of evaluators will conduct a randomized, controlled trial study on the efficacy of MindBlown Labs' approach. The study will involve the use of Thrive 'n' Shine, blended learning lesson plans, teacher training, and student access to savings accounts.  


How can you help? MindBlown Labs will be piloting Thrive 'n' Shine and the accompanying lesson plans with a limited number of schools during the next semester, beginning in January 2015.  If you are interested in piloting Thrive 'n' Shine in your classroom, please sign up here.


Thrive 'n' Shine is compatible with Android and iOS devices and is available to download for free through the App Store and Google Play Store.  A web-based version of the game also exists.  In order to access all of the content in the game, you need a code, which you can get by signing up for the pilot here

C Bowen
Expand Your Knowledge:
Debt Traps to Avoid - Payday Lending and RACs 
by Cathy Faulcon Bowen, Ph.D.




As we approach the 2015 calendar year, two tasks many consumers will be handling are paying for holiday expenses and filing an income tax return.  This is an opportune time to remind those you influence to avoid two common debt traps-payday lending and refund anticipation checks (RACs). 


A payday loan - which might also be called a "cash advance" or "check loan" - is a short-term loan, generally for $1000 or less, that is typically due on your next payday. Lenders may charge a flat or fixed fee for each $100 borrowed.  However when converted to an annual percentage rate (APR) for the loan period, the APR is extremely high compared to more traditional loan sources.  To get a payday loan, all borrowers need is a steady job and a bank account in good standing. Sounds like a simple way to borrow money quickly without a long loan application process and it is relatively easy to understand the loan conditions. If borrowers stuck to a single loan and repaid it in full without borrowing more, payday loans might seem like a reasonable solution to short-term cash needs.  The problem "or trap" occurs when a single loans turns into multiple loans. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), over 12 months, more than one-third of borrowers will take out between 11-19 payday loans.  The median borrower takes out 10 payday loans in 12 months and pays $458 to borrow.  One-fourth of borrowers paid at least $781 in fees. As might be expected, most that use payday loans to fill short term cash needs have low annual incomes (less than $30,000 per year).  However, 4% had earnings of more than $60,000 per year. 


Refund anticipation checks, sometime referred to as RACs are the offspring of their parent, refund anticipation loans (i.e., RALs).  RACs have been described as RALs with a new coat or label.  RALs were a product some paid tax preparers made available to put tax refunds in the hands of taxpayers as quickly as possible, usually within one-two days after filing the tax return. Once the return was accepted by the IRS, the taxpayer could receive a check for the amount of the refund minus the tax preparer's fees. Federally regulated banks were forced out of the RAL business in 2012 and essentially they were no longer used after 2013. A few payday lenders and other high-cost non-bank lenders may still offer RALs. 


For RACs, the tax preparer opens a temporary bank account for the consumer that can accept a refund by direct deposit. Consumers using RACs typically do not have a bank account, do not have the money to pay for the tax preparation up front, and they want the refund faster than it would arrive by regular mail.  Once the refund is deposited into the temporary account, the tax preparation fee and other fees charged by the preparer are taken out and the remainder of the refund is given to the consumer in the form of a check, or prepaid card.  


Convenience comes with a cost. Consumer who consider using or who use these short-term loans products may need to be reminded that they are essentially paying a hefty price for these products. In the case of the tax refund, they are paying to receive their own money faster. Instead of increasing the bottom line for a business, the additional loss of income due to the tax preparers' fees could be avoided and the money used to meet another family needs. Taxpayers with incomes of $53,000 or less for the 2014 tax year can find free tax assistance and e-filing at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site via zip code at


For additional information about payday lending and refund anticipation checks, visit or A lesson on payday lending for high school students is available as part of the Council on Economic Education's new Math in the Real World series here (requires a free teacher log-in to access). 

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Financial Education Hearing
Literature Connection
Pennsylvania House of Representatives Hears Testimony on Financial Literacy

Recognition of the need for financial literacy education continues to grow in the state legislature. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives' Education Committee recently held a public hearing on the topic and received a wide array of testimony on the topic - all highly in support of financial education in Pennsylvania schools. 

Those testifying included two members of the House of Representatives, members of the Task Force on Economic Education and Personal Financial Literacy, two school superintendents, a school board member, representatives of financial institutions and professionals, and a non-profit financial literacy organization. 


To view the hearing, visit and scroll down to the October 6th hearing. 


Children's Literature Connection:
How Santa Really Works


How Santa Really Works by Alan Snow is a clever book about the inner workings of the north pole. A nice fit with holiday-themed lessons, this book describes the research and development, production, storage, and distribution needs in order to get toys to children.


Consider reading the book aloud and have children identify all of the jobs performed by the elves. Students could develop "help wanted" ads describing specific elf job functions and/or complete an elf job application. Creative options to integrate personal finance and economics abound with this clever book. 


A nice companion book would be How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky.


Take Charge Today Seeks Master Teachers


Do you teach a course devoted to personal finance or integrate it into other subject areas? Are you a good communicator? Would you be interested in field-testing lesson plans? If you answered yes, you may wish to consider joining the Take Charge Today program as a Master Educator.

Applications are being accepted through December 31st. Learn more here

About this Message 

Making Cents is a cooperative effort by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania State University. If you find the content useful, please consider forwarding it to your colleagues. 


Team Members:

Sally Flaherty, PDE

Cathy F. Bowen, PSU

Hilary Hunt, Consultant

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