Mastering Personal Finance at Aspen Academy: Highlighting a Mini Economy

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Financial Literacy
Katie Becker


At Aspen Academy, we believe that providing our kids with a deep foundation in personal finance and money management is non-negotiable. And, given the following statistics, it is easy to see why we feel the imperative to integrate the skills that promote success in our students’ financial futures.


  • Forty percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency expense.1

  • Nearly half of Americans don’t expect to retire comfortably.2

  • Credit Card debt is at a record high.3

  • Two thirds of Americans cannot pass a basic test of financial skills.4  


One of the ways we seek to develop financial skills in a real-world context is through a thoughtfully constructed mini-economy in the classroom.  Our classroom systems include practices in which students apply for jobs, complete jobs daily, receive paychecks, and then have to manage the money that they earn! To shed some light on what this looks like, we are showcasing a third grade classroom.


Third graders are assigned classroom jobs at the beginning of each week. Jobs are roles that contribute to keeping the classroom community operating smoothly, including: Table Cleaner, Technology Assistant, Shelf Monitor, Pencil Sharpeners, and more.. Students participate in creating job descriptions for these roles so that everyone has clear expectations around how to effectively do their job. When payday arrives, students earn money tickets that they can deposit into their online bank accounts. A job well done five days a week earns $5.00! Over the course of the year, teachers introduce concepts like interest on savings, income taxes, fraudulent charges, and expenses. Desk rental space might go up, or a student might find themselves with a leaky roof that needs fixing! The highlight for the students though, is when they get to decide if and when they will spend their money in their classroom “marketplace.”


What do students walk away with? A fun and practical way to be exposed to money management. The best part? Students practice it in a simulated state so they are not learning it for the first time when the stakes are real. Not only will they be able to pass that basic test of financial skills and have a savings account to cover that $400 emergency, but they will be able to see money as a tool to achieve the goals and dreams they have for their futures.










About the Author:
Katie Becker is Director of Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute and Aspen Youth Leadership Institute at Aspen Academy.

Katie came to Aspen Academy in 2009 and has served as a Teacher, Instructional Coach, Character and Leadership Director, and Middle School Director. She began working in architecture after graduating from CU Boulder but soon found that her heart was in education. She then earned her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and went on to hold teaching positions in middle school and elementary grades.

She believes that seeing the student as the most critical aspect of education and allowing them to flourish based on who they are is what draws her so close to Aspen and its ideals. She has three children and enjoys everything that the beautiful mountains have to offer, including skiing, hiking, and biking, as well as spending time with interior design, books, and a camera.

Katie is available to speak on various topics in leadership and entrepreneurship to community groups. Click here to contact Katie about speaking.