Basic financial literacy — understanding money and finance concepts such as earning, saving, spending, and sharing money, are important life skills. Just as reading and writing are essential, basic financial concepts and skills are critical for future success.

Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, the all-girls school in Princeton, recognizes the importance of empowering young women with the knowledge and skills they will need to not only manage their own finances, but to understand how money can help make a difference in the lives of others. Therefore, financial and economics concepts are integrated into the academic curriculum at Stuart, beginning in kindergarten and extending through senior year.

Lack of Confidence. Women lag behind men not only in the wage gap, earning just 79 cents to every dollar men earn, but also fall behind when it comes to saving and investing.

Traditional caregiver roles — which can lead to reduced work hours or lower paying jobs that offer flexibility — are often cited as the reason for the gender gap. However, there may be another factor — lack of confidence. A 2015 Fidelity study found that while 83 percent of women said they want to be more involved in their finances, the majority did not feel comfortable talking about money, even with friends, spouses, and financial professionals.

Stuart Builds Confidence. “The Stuart Institute for Finance and Economics (SIFE) works to incorporate real-world financial knowledge and skills into the curriculum, taking economic theory out of textbooks and putting it into practice,” said Michelle Dowling, head of lower school at Stuart. “Social awareness is fundamental at Stuart, so our girls also learn how they can use money and business to make a difference.”

“Our youngest girls begin with identifying and counting money, and soon, they are running their own kindergarten cafe,” says Susan Beshel, math specialist in the lower school. “Third graders create budget proposals and needs/wants assessments when they select a charity beneficiary for their Women We Admire Day fundraiser. Social awareness is integrated as our girls investigate where their money can make the greatest impact.”

The path to financial literacy continues in the middle school where Stuart students take classes in personal finance, investment and macroeconomics. These concepts are also incorporated into social studies, math, clubs and community service.

Upper School students learn even more complex business skills. In economics class, students devise a business, take it from concept to startup, and make their pitch to a panel of outside “investors.” They advocate for their ideas at the Business Fair, a highlight of the year.

The earlier, the better. “The foundations for economic concepts are taught in elementary school. In addition to math, young students learn about cultures and making choices,” said Ms. Dowling. “They learn how to set and reach goals, make good decisions, and the importance of community-all critical to understanding finances later in life.”

Ms. Dowling explained, “Our goal is to graduate financially literate, capable and confident women able to lead Fortune 500 companies, a sustainable farm, or any other career they choose.”

Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, 1200 Stuart Road, Princeton. 609-921-2330. www.stuartschool.org.

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