INTEREST RATES: Students will understand that: Interest rates, adjusted for inflation, rise and fall to balance the amount saved with the amount borrowed, which affects the allocation of scarce resources between present and future uses.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Explain situations in which they pay or receive interest, and explain how they would react to changes in interest rates if they were making or receiving interest payments.
Interest rates influence the borrowing and saving of business investors, consumers, and government agencies. Most people are unfamiliar with interest rates until they wish to borrow money for a major purchase such as an automobile, college education, or a house. When they enter the market for credit they encounter an unfamiliar price (the interest rate) offered by an unfamiliar business (a financial institution). It is necessary for students to understand that interest rates are determined by market forces that balance savings and borrowing. For many people, interest rates can represent significant financial costs and significant financial benefits over a lifetime.
It is also important for students to understand the incentive effects of interest rates. Interest payments compensate savers for postponing current consumption; they compensate lenders for the risk that borrowers might default on their loans; and they cover the cost of expected inflation over the term of the loan.
INCOME: Students will understand that: Income for most people is determined by the market value of the productive resources they sell. What workers earn primarily depends on the market value of what they produce.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Predict future earnings based on their current plans for education, training, and career options.
In a market economy, wages and salaries the prices of labor services are determined just as other prices are, by the interaction of buyers and sellers. The buyers of labor services are employers. They are willing to pay higher wages and salaries to those employees who can produce more or better goods or services in a given amount of time. Students who understand this will appreciate the value of the skills they can acquire by completing high school, and perhaps college or a vocational training program.
Understanding the forces affecting wages and other sources of income will be increasingly important in the future, when workers may change employers and careers more often than in the past. Regardless of the occupations or industries in which today's students eventually work, they are likely to find that they will have to continue their education and training to maintain or increase their earnings.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Students will understand that: Entrepreneurs take on the calculated risk of starting new businesses, either by embarking on new ventures similar to existing ones or by introducing new innovations. Entrepreneurial innovation is an important source of economic growth.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Identify the risks, returns, and other characteristics of entrepreneurship that bear on its attractiveness as a career.
Starting a new business, such as a "drive thru" that sells fruit-freezes, is difficult and risky. Challenges abound: hiring and managing the workers to make and serve the freezes, ordering supplies and making sure they arrive on time, giving prompt and courteous service so customers will return, and earning enough money to pay workers, taxes, suppliers and everyone else involved in the production and sales process, while still leaving something for the owner.
Spending money and using resources to supply a product is risky, because costs are incurred before consumers decide whether they will purchase the product at a price sufficiently high to cover the costs. Starting a new business or producing an entirely new product is especially risky because in the case of a new product producers know even less about how consumers will react. Entrepreneurs accept the risks and organize productive resources to get products produced. Profits are the financial incentive and the income that entrepreneurs receive in return for their effort and risk if they are successful. If they aren't successful, losses are the financial incentives that tell entrepreneurs to stop using resources as they have been using them.
Understanding the roles of entrepreneurs, profits, and losses is important to workers, business owners, and consumers. Wages and employment opportunities at a business depend on the business' success in earning profits and avoiding losses. Similarly, public policies that affect the profitability of a business will influence not only the owners and employees of the business, but also the consumers who buy the products produced by the business.
ECONOMIC GROWTH: Students will understand that: Investment in factories, machinery, new technology, and in the health, education, and training of people stimulates economic growth and can raise future standards of living.
Students will be able to use this knowledge to: Predict the consequences of investment decisions made by individuals, businesses, and governments.
Students should recognize that by saving and investing money today they can benefit in the future by being able to buy such things as a car, a compact disk player, a trip to an amusement park, or other things they want that cost more than what they can afford immediately. They will face similar trade-offs throughout their lives. As adults they will save for many things other than toys and vacations including housing, medical expenses, taxes, household and automobile repairs, their children's education, and their own retirement. Savings deposited in banks and other financial institutions earn interest because those savings are loaned to businesses that want to invest in capital goods, or to people who are willing to pay higher interest rates to purchase homes, cars, or other things now rather than later. The new physical capital will, in turn, increase production and promote faster economic growth.
Businesses, governments, and other organizations face decisions similar to those confronting individuals: future benefits that arise from saving and investing today make it worthwhile to sacrifice some current spending. Knowing this will help students understand the various investment and dividend programs adopted by different corporations, as well as public policies involving taxation, spending programs, and investment in infrastructure, education, and other things that will increase future standards of living. It will help them appreciate that a better life in the future often requires patience and sacrifice in the present. It will also help them understand the importance of personal investment in education and training, and of business investments.