Debt: Who Does It Affect?

9, 10, 11, 12

Students examine how their personal choices with money and debt affect other people. The group will explore the following question: As consumers, how might the choices we make affect global poverty? The students plan and carry out a service project that advocates for financial responsibility.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session, Plus time to plan and carry out a service project

The learners will:

  • examine how to spend responsibly, and how their personal spending affects the rest of the world.
  • locate nonprofits that provide support for families that cannot afford to meet their needs.
  • plan a project to teach others about financial responsibility.

Internet access or a printout from Wikipedia for one group

  • common good: working together with other members for the greater benefit of all; promotes the welfare of the community
  • credit: the opportunity to borrow money or receive goods or services in return for a promise to pay someone else or a company back at a later time
  • debt: the state of owing something
  • interest: a sum paid or charged for the use of money or borrowing money
  • economy: the management of resources of a community, or the prosperity or earnings of that place.
  • bankruptcy: the state at which an individual, nation, or organization is without any available financial resources or access to credit
  • impulse buy: to purchase something without reflecting on costs and benefits
  • buyer's remorse: a feeling of regret after a purchase
  • budget: a summary of expenses and income and a plan to balance the two effectively
  • delayed gratification: the ability to wait for something one wants until a more opportune time
  • consumer: someone who buys or acquires goods and serices for his or her own personal needs

Post the following two phrases: "Think locally, act globally." And "Think globally, act locally."

Ask: "Which phrasing would you choose when thinking about how we spend money? Why?"


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Generate a discussion about the interconnectedness of economics, starting with the following questions: “How do my choices with money affect others? When I am not responsible with my money, does it affect anyone else? Does it affect the community? Why or why not?”

  2. Tell students that what we do with our money affects everyone because we are all connected. If a family on a budget buys a new television, they may not have enough to pay for rent, food, heat, water, gas, or other expenses. Ask: How might this affect people inside and outside of the family? Personal spending and debt affect jobs, retail health, housing, and available credit. Have students explore the following questions in small groups (one question per group). Groups should assign roles for members, such as recorder, reporter, researcher, and facilitator.

  3. 1. What is government debt and who is owed the money? (use the slide-show at or print the following handout from Wikipedia: 2. What are some ways for individuals and families to avoid or get out of debt? 3. What could we (as advocates) do to help people avoid or get out of debt?

  4. After the groups have gathered their information, have them report their findings to the full group. Each group shares its question and answers them. Allow enough time for discussion after each question.

  5. Relate the discussion back to the issue of interconnectedness whenever appropriate.

  6. Ask: What information have you learned about money and credit that you think would be helpful to your friends? List the responses.

  7. Group the items into meaningful subtopics. Assign each subtopic to a group of students. Each group writes a paragraph about its topic and finds or draws an illustration to accompany the paragraph.

  8. Make a plan to share the information learned with others to promote responsible use of credit. Example: Many teens are getting credit card offers as they prepare for college, and they would benefit from some tips on responsible use of credit. With that in mind, have the student use their paragraphs and images to create an informational brochure on credit for high school students. The paragraphs and illustrations can also be used to make an informational poster that they hang up at localyouth clubs, high schools, or libraries. Or they may use social media to advocate for the issue.

  9. Reflect on how their efforts to communicate about responsible credit and spending benefit the common good.

  10. Carry out the advocacy plan and then evaluate its impact. (What response did they get from their peers or people in the community?)

Cross Curriculum 

Students use their talents and resources to design a project that teaches others about the importance of wise use of credit or that advocates for laws to support responsible credit. Students use social media or other projects that are meaningful to their peers in their advocacy campaign.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the community, state or nation, such as petitioning authority, advocating, voting, group problem solving, mock trials or classroom governance and elections.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Provide a needed service.
    4. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.