Common Sense Economics for Life:
Personal Finance

This course studies personal and family financial management principles. It is designed to employ the economic way of thinking relative to the student’s life and his or her professional development. The tools of economics are applied to key life choices: education, earning, saving, investing, the use of debt, purchasing a vehicle or home, and planning for retirement. The course includes five modules on smart choices for work and life satisfaction, earning more income, managing credit, saving and investing, and insurance.

No prior knowledge is require to take this course. The course is not math-heavy. Instead, students are encouraged to develop their economic reasoning skills and apply them to the development of more fulfilling lives!

  • A semester long course for students who want to make strategic financial decisions using economic reasoning
    • 13 Modules = 5 Core Economic Modules + 4 Personal Finance Modules + 5 Smart Choice Modules
  • 53 Key Economic Concepts Aligned with National Standards
  • Equivalent to a semester long high school course or a 2 credit hour college course

This course studies personal and family financial management principles. It is designed to employ the economic way of thinking relative to the student’s life and his or her professional development. The tools of economics are applied to key life choices: education, earning, saving, investing, the use of debt, purchasing a vehicle or home, and planning for retirement. The course includes five modules on smart choices for work and life satisfaction, earning more income, managing credit, saving and investing, and insurance.

No prior knowledge is require to take this course. The course is not math-heavy. Instead, students are encouraged to develop their economic reasoning skills and apply them to the development of more fulfilling lives!

  • A semester long course for students who want to make strategic financial decisions using economic reasoning
    • 13 Modules = 5 Core Economic Modules + 4 Personal Finance Modules + 5 Smart Choice Modules
  • 53 Key Economic Concepts Aligned with National Standards
  • Equivalent to a semester long high school course or a 2 credit hour college course
The downloadable course packages contains all of the following resources:
  • Common Cartridge
    • Imports into most Learning Management Systems (LMS’s); Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, Schoology, and many more
    • Contains a full semester’s worth of assessment materials broken down by module
  • Teacher Files
    • Contains electronic course files (.docx) for easy incorporation into your lesson plans
    • Includes additional lesson activities
  • eTextbook
    • is built in a rich text format incorporating text and video and audio clips into a multimedia experience that engages students and enhances their learning experience
    • is free and simple. Teachers simply register on our website and receive a code to share with their students.


  • By signing up for our Mailing List you will receive:
    • New free resources such as study break articles, mini-lessons, and bell ringers
    • Free Classroom Lessons
    • Updates about Certell
    • Summer Job Opportunities for Teachers and much more!


This course uses the Read, Watch, Listen, and Do approach to learning. The course presents basic elements of economics such as opportunity cost, comparative advantage, gains from trade, and the operation of markets. These tools are then applied to key life choices: education, career, earning, spending, saving, investing, use of debt, purchasing a vehicle or home, and planning for retirement.

Questions include:

  • Should you go to college? If so, which college and how will you manage the costs?
  • How do you strategically choose a career while taking into account market conditions?
  • How can you earn more and get more value from your earning?

These vitally important questions and many others are considered. Economic reasoning is employed to address these concepts over the short and long run. Concepts and topics covered include budgeting, skill development, entrepreneurship, saving, investing, credit, insurance, and retirement planning. Practical exercises emphasize the importance of personal responsibility and help students develop financial management skills. Finally, the course considers how life choices made today influence personal success and happiness in the future.

During the past decade, the Stavros Center for Economic Education of Florida State University has worked with a team of master economic educators to develop the Common Sense Economics for Life course. The primary contributors to this project include James Gwartney and Joe Calhoun (Florida State University), Tawni Ferrarini (Northern Michigan University), Mark Schug (University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee), John Morton (Arizona Council for Economic Education), John Kessler (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne), and Certell, Inc. The developers have all spent their careers in education and most currently direct Centers of Economic Education. They have combined their expertise to achieve a single objective: the development and implementation of an exciting and understandable set of materials that focuses on what students really need to know about economics and personal finance. Certell, an educational non-profit, is partnered with the primary contributors to fund development and distribution of Common Sense curricula in Economics as well as other subjects.

The Common Sense Economics for Life course pairs the textbook primer Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know about Wealth and Prosperity (St. Martin’s Press) by Gwartney, Stroup, Lee, Ferrarini, and Calhoun with short video clips, classic readings, interesting podcasts, and practical assignments. The “read, watch, listen, and do” approach is used to make learning both easy and fun. The Stavros Center now offers this multimedia course regularly online and shares the materials with individuals throughout the U.S. and now around the globe.

53 Key Economic Concepts Covered

Part 1

  • Incentives
  • Scarcity
  • Opportunity Costs
  • Marginalism
  • Gains from trade
  • Transaction costs
  • Demand and supply
  • Market equilibrium
  • Demand and supply (more)
  • Changes in demand vs. changes in quantity demanded
  • Changes in supply vs. changes in quantity supplied
  • Price controls
  • Profit and loss
  • Helping others and receipt of income
  • Jobs versus the creation of wealth
  • Source of economic progress
  • Market prices and the invisible hand
  • Secondary effects and unintended consequences

Part 2

  • Sources of happiness
  • Earned success
  • Purposefulness of work
  • Character
  • Stewardship, giving, and happiness
  • Comparative advantage and discovery of career opportunities
  • Entrepreneurship and personal success
  • Budgeting and getting more out of your income
  • Investing in human capital
  • Educational choices and earnings
  • Paying for college
  • Career choices

Part 3

  • Strategic spending: used vs. new
  • Dangers of debt and credit card use
  • Prudent saving: planning for a “rainy day”
  • Managing credit
  • Financial institutions
  • Alternative financial services
  • Credit reports and credit scores
  • Power of compound interest
  • Diversification and reducing investment risk
  • Risk and return: stocks vs. bonds
  • Random walk theory and stock prices
  • Indexed vs. managed equity funds

Part 4

  • Risk and return
  • Saving vs. investing
  • Saving and investment strategy
  • Tax-deferred retirement programs
  • Risk and insurance
  • Insurance markets
  • Shopping for insurance
  • Types of insurance
  • Portfolio adjustments and phases of life
  • Beware of investment schemes
  • Teach others sound financial principles


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