CLEVELAND, TN. (WRCB)-  For generations, Tennessee schools have taught the "3 R's."  But it's what they haven't taught that has gotten many young people in financial trouble.

Starting this school year, the state has joined Missouri, Utah and Virginia in requiring Personal Finance class, a nine-week course that must be completed by every student who receives a high school diploma.

Bradley Central teacher Kyle Copeland said he, like most all of us, received little or no financial education in high school, "and I had to learn some hard lessons on the fly."  He said he struggled with learning how to balance a checkbook, buying cars and insurance and managing his credit cards and various debts.  "I could have really used this class when I was in high school," Copeland said.

Copeland's recollections are echoed by fellow teacher Jared McDaniel, who grew up in Florida.  "We had some great classes in high school down there, but when I graduated, I wasn't ready to manage my money," McDaniel said.  "You name it,  groceries, rent, utilities, insurance, it's all the stuff parents just take care of.  Kids aren't ready to deal with it when they move out of the house."

The single-credit Personal Finance course is designed to change all that, making sure Tennessee high school graduates are better prepared for "the real world," according to Bradley Central junior Hanna Blessing. "Some students will never use physics or foreign languages or chemistry, but they will all have to deal with credit cards and jobs and saving money.  I think schools all over the country should have this class."

The course covers all facet of money: how to make it, spend it and save it.  It's a topic long overlooked in schools, and still rarely addressed by parents.

Kayla Wilcox, a junior said, "No, I don't think a lot of parents talk about that.  They prepare you for a lot of life's dangers, like drugs, and drinking and driving, but money doesn't come up very much."

Teacher Copeland says he is excited about giving Bradley Central students a head start on their financial future.  He said among the most popular topics is what to ask when buying a car.

"How much is it going to cost?  How much is your monthly payment?  What's all this about interest and finance charges?"  Our students are going to know to ask these questions when they visit a car dealer."

Teacher McDaniel, who teaches economics to seniors,  says the nation's current debt crisis is proof that we need to educate the next generation about money.

"Debt has taken over a large part of the population. Buy now, pay later, that's our national mindset. We've got to reign it in and to do that, we need to start young.  Every student who leaves my class will have a budget they can use in real life."