3 Ways to Boost a Young Person’s Financial Understanding
By Dan Kadlec
April 11, 2018
As educators and policymakers consider how best to provide students with meaningful instruction in personal finance, one emerging model is to start with basic financial concepts, add career counseling and follow that with years of mentoring.
The guiding thought here is that just knowing how to set a budget, invest, and manage credit isn’t nearly enough. To be truly successful in life, a young person must also understand which careers will provide a decent and enduring income—and get real-time, impartial advice to help them stay on track.
This three-pronged approach to financial literacy underpins the Access Your Potential program from business services firm PwC, which has a deep commitment to financial education. PwC, a RightAboutMoney sponsor, has committed $320 million over five years to helping disadvantaged youths learn money skills and prepare for jobs of the future.
Mentorship is the newest piece of the puzzle, says Shannon Schuyler, chief purpose officer at PwC. “We need students to understand not just skills that are in demand now but will be in 15 or 20 years,” she says. “A mentor can help because no one is doing this for these kids at home.”
Schuyler muses about a toll-free hotline where young people could call for instant advice as they weigh college majors and how much money to borrow for education. But it’s not that far-fetched. Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit that through texting supports people in personal crisis including suicidal thoughts, estimates that 5% of texts they receive are financial in nature–and they have protocols for helping.
That underscores the importance of broadly defined financial literacy, as does a new trend reported in The New York Times citing an increasing number of college graduates in white collar jobs growing disenchanted with their occupation and prospects, and moving into blue collar jobs. Many do not like the field they studied. They are finding the transition possible in part because many of today’s jobs in manufacturing require a high level of education. The jobs call for advanced skills that include a command of math, physics, robotics, and information technology.
These are precisely the next generation skills that a career counselor would highlight to youngsters. When coupled with continued mentoring, over the long term it promises to help narrow income inequality, Schuyler told some of the 1,300 students attending last week’s X-STEM Symposium, part of the U.S. Science & Engineering Festival in Washington.
“The U.S. exhibits wider disparities of wealth between rich and poor than any other major developed nation,” Schuyler said. “The idea that hard work and determination are enough for anyone to become successful in America seems to be evaporating. We believe…
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…that building the careers and the financial and technical skills of young people from underserved communities has never been more important.”
The PwC effort expects to reach 10 million students, train 100,000 teachers and provide mentors to 10,000 young people. The firm has collaborated with Code.org to develop a technology curriculum and CareerVillage.org and iMentor.orgto provide career advice to students seeking jobs.
Through its three-front program—technical skills, mentoring, financial know-how—PwC expects to better understand the progression of how people become financially capable and use its size and scale to spread the word.
CFPB’s Financial Education Efforts Under Review
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a formal Request for Information on consumer financial education. The CFPB seeks comments and information from the financial literacy community to assist in assessing the overall efficiency and effectiveness of its consumer financial education programs.
This comes as no surprise. Since assuming leadership of the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney has issued 11 such formal requests seeking input about the agency. In this case, he wants to know how the community views the CFPB’s “delivery of financial education through online tools, print publications, and community collaborations.”
Questions the CFPB hopes to answer:
Are financial education programs focusing on the right topics and areas to educate and empower consumers to make better financial decisions?
What technologies should be used to provide financial education?
How should the CFPB measure the success of its financial education programs?
Are there programs at other federal agencies that are similar to CFPB programs?
Are there ways to improve coordination in financial education activities between the CFPB and other federal agencies?
This request is an opportunity for the public to submit feedback and suggest ways to improve outcomes for consumers. You can submit your thoughts here.
Make no mistake: The CFPB is in the crosshairs of President Trump. Mulvaney was named acting director in large part to dismantlemuch of the agency’s authority. Already, financial literacy initiatives have ground to a halt. Financial education research projects that are in the budget and ready to go have not gotten final approval. Contracts with financial literacy program developers that have been bid on and awarded have not been signed.
But that doesn’t mean your thoughts can’t make a difference. When Mulvaney took control many in financial literacy circles took heart. With things like investigations and enforcement top of mind, they believed financial literacy—a mission akin to motherhood and apple pie—would be spared as a PR move if for no other reason. Those expectations may have been misplaced, or not. Your comments could be a decisive factor.