I was lucky. High school students in Michigan are required to take one semester of economics before graduation but, in my high school economics class, our teacher Mr. Mariage also included a dose of personal finance education. He taught us about compound interest and Roth IRAs. He had us calculate the time-value of maxing out annual Roth contributions. His point was that by doing this, we could become millionaires by retirement age and the lesson stuck. I opened a Roth IRA with my first paychecks, before I had even graduated from college. I’ve maxed it out every year since and now have a head start on retirement that gives me a great sense of security and freedom.
The time Mr. Mariage reserved for our class to cover personal finance changed my life. Not only did it put me on solid financial ground, but it also showed me the choices I make today can change my tomorrow. And that lesson goes way beyond personal finance. So now, I pay it forward and volunteer to teach financial education in local classrooms each year.
Talking with students about money, I’ve seen two main things. First, all students have something to say about the topic. It engages even the most introverted young people to participate in class discussions and activities. Secondly, learning about money at school generates conversations about money at home, where young people form their deepest beliefs and values.
A 2017 survey by Wakefield Research for Junior Achievement U.S.A. and Jackson Charitable Foundation revealed that when it comes to money, kids as old as 10 admit they still have a lot to learn. According to the survey, which included 500 children seven to 10 years of age and their parents:
33 percent of the young respondents haven’t been taught how to get or earn money;
41 percent haven’t been taught how to spend money, and
47 percent have not learned how to give money to help people.
When asked why they think people put money in a bank, only 53 percent selected the answer of saving it, so they won’t spend it. Only 25 percent knew they can earn interest on savings.
The good news is, adults everywhere can be part of the solution when it comes to teaching young people about money. They can be my “Mr. Mariage” and help kick off their financial future and set them up for success.
My day job is as Executive Director for Jackson Charitable Foundation. Our mission is to increase financial education across the country. The Foundation’s goal is to help Americans on their personal journey toward financial freedom—a journey that begins with basic financial education. Since we began our work with Cha-Ching™ Money Smart Kids in 2017, we have reached more than 2.7 million elementary students in partnership with Discovery Education and Junior Achievement USA. Cha-Ching equips 7 to 12-year-olds with the knowledge, tools and practice they need to make informed financial decisions to reach their own personal goals and dreams. The Cha-Ching band members engage students to explore financial skills we all use every day that allow us to—Earn, Spend, Save and Donate!
If you are an educator or parent you can use these free Cha-Ching videos and activities at www.cha-chingusa.org to teach your students how to earn, save, spend and donate. For parents, there are take-home family activities also available for free at www.cha-chingusa.org. For people like me who are not teachers or parents and you have time to volunteer, contact your local Junior Achievement chapter to get connected with a classroom in your community and use JA’s grade-appropriate curriculum to teach.
In honor of Financial Literacy Month this April, Discovery Education and Jackson Charitable Foundation are teaming up to host a day of online engagement geared at providing K-6 educators and families with the resources and support to equip students with the tools and knowledge to make smart financial decisions. Join us on Twitter Thursday, April 4, as experts in the field discuss how to integrate financial literacy in the classroom, plus learn about free resources and instructional strategies for teaching financial literacy in the classroom. Beginning at 10 a.m. EST, be sure to follow along during this day of financial literacy fun using #MoneySmartKids!
Money-smart kids turn into money-smart adults. When students learn about the choices they have with money, it empowers them to take control of their futures. And that sounds like a future I want to be part of — #MoneySmartKids #FinLitFuture!