Attention all parents of Staples High School students: Be on the lookout for your child's 2011-2012 course catalogues as they plan their schedules for next year. I've got an inside scoop for you that aligns perfectly with my column.

While Connecticut doesn't mandate that students take a financial literacy class before they graduate, Staples has taken matters into their own hands by offering a personal finance course as an elective. Let me tell you a little about it so you can conveniently slip this into the conversation with your child.

The course is called Personal Financial Management and is comprised primarily of seniors. It is a one semester course, and this is the first year that it has been offered. The teachers, Sarah White and Lenny Klein, invited me in to be a guest speaker and I can tell you first hand that the students were interested, inquisitive, and engaged in the hour or so that I spent with them. In full disclosure, Sarah went to the University of Virginia, which makes me highly biased on anything that a fellow alumnus might be working on. Having said that, I love the initiative they are taking and the enthusiasm they bring into the classroom on a subject that is so crucial to the development of our children.

The course covers such topics as:

Banking and savings

Gross versus Net Pay

Borrowing Money (mortgages, car loans, student loans)





I think this class is a great way for students to start building a foundation of the terms and concepts that they will most likely be exposed to later in life.

This might be a way for parents to start getting a little coaching from their child on their own financial plan. Wouldn't it be great if you shared the current asset allocation of your retirement fund with your child for them to bring in as a discussion topic for class? They would win. You would win. And the experience would carry on so much more meaning.

For those of you who just read that last paragraph and thought, "Ugh, share our personal retirement account information with our teenager?" To that I shout a resounding yes, as we don't live in the "good ole days" where money was a taboo topic in the household.

Whether you're looking to help your high school student to develop sound money literacy, or just spicing up your dinner-time conversation, this class might be just the fix.

Tom Henske, a Westport resident and partner with Lenox Advisors, a wealth management firm with offices in New York City and Stamford, created the Lenox Money-Smart Kids Program. He can be reached at