Tomorrow is April Fool’s Day, but it is also the beginning of Financial Literacy For Youth Month, and that is no joke!

Regular readers of this column know that I am a big proponent of making a course on personal finance a requirement for graduating from high school. All the studies, surveys, and the resulting statistics involving young people, clearly support the need for such a requirement. Furthermore, adults and teachers overwhelmingly agree that it is necessary. Yet, we don’t have this requirement, even in an enlightened state like New York.

As a result, I want to use the next few columns to set out the kinds of important things that high school students typically study and learn when they do take a course on personal finance and money management. Perhaps, when people see what ONLY some, but not all, young people are learning as they prepare for the real world, they will demand that all students study and learn these things. If nothing else, perhaps people with high school students in their lives will make sure that they take personal finance and money management as an elective.

Fortunately, there are many excellent resources out there for teachers to use in their money management courses. The organizations supplying these materials, which are often web-based, include Next Gen Personal Finance, FoolProof, H&R Block, NEFE (National Endowment for Financial Education), and others. They have modules with factual situations and discussions that speak to the realities and experiences of teenagers.

For this series, I want to review what students cover in a six-module high school financial planning program provided by NEFE. The six modules are: Money Management: Control Your Cash Flow, Borrowing: Use – Don’t Abuse, and Earning Power: More Than a Paycheck. Also, Investing: Money Working for You; Financial Services: Care for Your Cash; and Insurance: Protect What You Have. Who wouldn’t want a high school student in their life to learn about these topics?!

Here are some of the things that students work on and learn in the Money Management module:

$ Building good money habits. This requires students to look at all of their money habits, like spending, saving, comparative shopping, shopping for sales, impulse buying, giving to charity, and more. After that, they must evaluate whether they are wise or unwise habits (in my day we would have called them good or bad), for where they are financially, both currently and in the future. Inevitably, the $15 a week cost of iced coffee after school ($780 per year), or an equivalent example, comes up, and the broader question is raised, what else could you do in life if you broke or modified that spending habit — what we have discussed in the past as Lost Opportunity Costs.

$ Keeping a spending log. This is critical for them to see where they are actually spending their money, even at their age. It’s an eye opener for many of them, as it is for almost all of us when we do this exercise. Now they are in a better position to make smarter spending choices, and to, hopefully, think more broadly about people’s spending choices in general.

$ Embracing delayed gratification. This is an opportunity for students to look at and discuss saving for things, as well as avoiding buying things on impulse, so that they are really sure that it is a smart spending choice. Is it something that they need or really want, and something they can afford?

$ Understanding the difference between needs and wants. As we have so often discussed, this can be difficult in our hyper consumer society, where we are bombarded with constant advertising and peer pressure. This is a critical concept for teenagers to focus on, because they can be extremely vulnerable to both advertising and spending peer pressure.

$ Setting financial goals based upon your personal life values. This is an opportunity for them to look at both their short term (go to lacrosse camp this summer), and long term (having and supporting a family someday, and saving the polar bears). In setting their goals, they must use the SMART Goals Guide, the same one that financial planners use. The goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound, and they must be ones that you can truly buy into, because they reflect your important personal values.

$ How to develop a budget, or spending plan, in order to meet SMART financial goals. This is the roadmap to meeting financial goals, and having those things that you need and want. This requires learning about fixed, variable and periodic expenses, as well as ways to increase your income, if that is required to balance your spending plan. In addition, it is the time they learn about saving for emergencies and paying themselves first. How often have you heard that? It requires that you have a saving component as a fixed expense in your budget, which is critical to financial success.

$ Being financially flexible. Understand that you must update your spending plan to address any changing income, goals, or spending requirements, and that a spending plan is a work in process.

$ Miscellaneous spending tips that help you control your spending. I liked these seven tips. Before you go shopping make a list of what you will buy or spend, and stick to it. Pay with cash. Research your bigger purchases. For many things, think used instead of new. Look for discounts, sales, specials and coupons. Don’t shop when you are really up, or really down. Unless you have to, don’t shop when you are seriously dieting or working too hard that day. As you might expect, these result in many discussions about spending, and many more “spending tips.”

In the next column, we will look at more modules.

John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo.