Securities regulators and a nonprofit foundation are helping high school students learn their financial ABCs.
Financial Literacy 2001 offers teachers throughout the country a curriculum that includes materials on making financial decisions, how financial markets work, and investment fraud.
The goal is twofold: to equip future investors with financial savvy and help protect them from scams, said Denise Voigt Crawford, the Texas securities commissioner.
Regulators will never be able to put every con artist in jail, but education is preventive medicine, said Ms. Crawford, immediate past president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, the umbrella group for state securities regulators.
The original version of the curriculum was developed by the National Institute for Consumer Education in 1991. The National Association of Securities Dealers Inc. posted a version on its Web site in 1996. Then in late 1997 the NASD and the Investor Protection Trust, a nonprofit foundation in Arlington, Va., pooled resources with state securities regulators.
There will be heightened emphasis on individuals' making their own financial decisions, said Michael D. Jones, chief administrative officer at the NASD. "The best that we can do is to start educating our youth to be equipped to be able to make those types of decisions as they get older," he said.
In November and December curriculums were sent to 16,000 teachers nationwide. And 10,000 more teachers, chosen through market research, will get more advanced materials late this year and early next year, said Scott Stapf, co-director of the Investor Protection Trust.
"We're really going to great lengths to make sure that teachers actually crack the binder open, use the materials in the classroom, and create an impact on kids," he said.
The curriculum includes educational materials that are relevant to a particular state, including contact information. Ms. Crawford, the Texas official, said the curriculum is flexible and could be used in a variety of classes, including social studies, math, and economics.
"It doesn't just focus on the mechanics of the stock market," she said. "It also discusses very basic mathematical and savings concepts."
In February, a Web site will be launched, offering updated learning tools and allowing teachers to communicate with one another. There will also be 150 training sessions in various states this year and a quarterly newsletter by March, Mr. Stapf said.
The goal is to create an interactive guide and not one that "sits on the shelf and collects dust," he said.