Key Financial Literacy Resources for Teachers and Parents
By Brian Page
April 4, 2018
With financial literacy month in full swing again in the U.S., look for a flurry of coverage from mainstream media. That’s a good thing. Financial edcuation flies under the radar most of the year. Yet it’s an area in need of exploration and support.
A handful of organizations are committed to raising the personal financial capability of individuals through initiatives that start with the very young and proceed through their working years and into retirement. These organizations are hard at work year-round-not just in April.
As a nod to their efforts, in this edition RightAboutMoney highlights leaders in the field. What follows is an updated version of our Key Resources series, published last April.
We do not spotlight the outstanding ongoing research in academia or the advocacy groups, including treasurers and lawmakers at the state level (of which there are more than a few). Rather, this series is designed to help educators and parents find help, support, and materials to teach young people about money. The series looks at six organizations, including RightAboutMoney sponsors PwC and NextGen Personal Finance.
PwC is a financial literacy champion. In 2012, the business services giant launched what would become a five-year $190 million commitment to address youth education-with a focus on financial concepts. Soon after, I attended a PwC funded seminar for high school educators on business and financial responsibility hosted at Penn’s Wharton School. PwC picked up the tab for all teachers, including travel.
Right About Money founder Dan Kadlec moderated a heavyweight opening panel featuring Annamaria Lusardi, Denit Trust Endowed Chair of Economics and Accountancy at George Washington School of Business, and Shannon Schuyler, PwC’s corporate responsibility leader. I was on the panel as well.
Continuous sessions led by Wharton professors and a surprise visit by former U.S. Treasurer Rosa Rios followed. The experience left all with a lasting impression of PwC excellence.
PwC remains committed to financial literacy, funding cutting edge programs and research. The firm is a sponsor of the Right About Money financial literacy report and website, and recently pledged $320 million over five years toward boosting financial capability and tech skills for students in underserved communities through the Access Your Potential program.
“Half of today’s jobs require some degree of technological skills, and experts believe that number will rise to 77% in the coming decade,” Schuyler says. “This means that access to technology skills and an understanding of the types of jobs available is the key to a long-term career.”
PwC’s Earn Your Future Digital Lab is a robust collection of videos, real-world examples, and interactive activities that support teachers and students in grades 3-12. The online modules are free. Topics include saving, investing, debt, and paying for college. “Equipping students with the knowledge to intelligently leverage their dollars is equally important as helping them develop the skills and careers that will lead them to those dollars,” Schuyler says.
I am planning future classes that will use these modules in the area of risk management, for one. The modules include before and after assessments to check for understanding. They are presented in an engaging story format that weaves in key concepts and prompts the user to analyze things like insurance quotes.
I am already using the Build Your Future app as a key component in a career and family planning project. PwC and Junior Achievement jointly developed the app, which helps teens, parents and teachers break down the cost of college in relation to their career goals.
Key inputs include career, likely income, cost of college, grants and scholarships, and student loans. The analysis guides students to an understanding that their education is an investment-and they should seek a high return.
“We still face significant barriers, which include a lack of scaled resources, training and a real contradiction between what students may learn in the classroom to what happens in their home,” Schuyler says. “Because we know financial education is critical to our societal and economic vitality, we as businesses have the responsibility to make it our issue and to bring new thinking to the table.”
Once upon a time, Tim Ranzetta taught in a California high school where most students would become the first in their family to attend college. The intrinsic rewards were considerable, often including disengaged students perking up at the mention of a personal finance lesson-like student debt–that was relevant to their life. He even saw some of his lessons trickle to parents. It gave him an appreciation of the need for financial education on a broad scale.
This education becomes more so relevant for parents who wish for their kids to attend the most prestigious high schools in the city, state or even the country for that matter. For a middle-income family, that will require moving past two hurdles. The first being the entrance tests that some of these schools have. As an example, for New York City, a standardized test for middle schoolers is SHSAT. And the test is often seen to be “hard” or more accurately daunting for students. Parents can reduce this fear in their kids to a large extent by convincing them to take a SHSAT practice test (the more the better) to help them get accustomed to the “real test”.
The second obstacle is financial planning that will need parents to be that much more prepared for when the high school admission letters start coming in. That means sitting down with their kids to assess options, and being able to explain to them what financial prudence entails when it comes to picking a high school of choice.
“For me, it’s a social justice issue,” Ranzetta says. “If teens don’t become financially literate their lives will be much harder. I wanted to have an impact beyond the classroom.” And he has. For his selfless efforts to spread financial knowledge, Ranzetta will be recognized next week at the annual JumpStart Coalition awards ceremony in Washington D.C.
After a successful run in the private sector, where he pioneered student loan analysis among other things, Ranzetta marshaled is own resources and launched Next Gen Personal Finance, a nonprofit dedicated to providing free and comprehensive personal finance materials to teachers.
“I experienced first-hand the challenges financial literacy teachers face and I wanted to make their lives easier by creating turnkey resources they could rely on,” Ranzetta says. “I wanted to have a broader impact for hundreds of thousands of kids by helping them develop their own financial capabilities.”
As I construct lessons for my students, NextGen is always a go-to resource. NGPF podcasts are entertaining and informative, and feature top financial literacy experts. I enjoy listening to them on my drive home from work. The teaching resources can plug into your own work or stand alone. NextGen’s blended learning lessons are ideal for teachers just getting started in this field as well as for experienced teachers looking to refresh their curriculum.
NextGen is especially good at monitoring financial innovation and identifying skills the next generation will need to manage money, and quickly building appropriate lessons. The organization’s Project and Activity Banks feature more than 100 engaging ways for students to apply their understanding of key concepts. The organization’s Fine Print tool helps students understand common financial agreements such as those with checking accounts and credit cards.
Managing money is a skill, not a multiple-choice test. NextGen offers a variety of assessments to evaluate a student’s ability to put into practice key financial concepts. NextGen Case Studies require students to make decisions with incomplete information from a variety of perspectives including that of credit counselor, a friend and a college-bound high school senior.
Professional development is a pillar of the program. NextGen recently funded the Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy graduate-level educator training program, which empowers high school teachers with the confidence, skills and tools to bring personal finance education into the classroom. The organization underwrites one-day “fincamps,” where teachers create, collaborate and deepen their content knowledge.
NextGen also offers dozens of scholarships for teachers to attend the Jump$tart National Educator Conference each year and provides 12 scholarships each year to teachers attending the NGPF Summer Institute in Palo Alto, where they engage in a professional learning community.
To learn more about Next Gen Personal Finance visit their website or follow them on @NextGenPF.
My first national conference on financial education was the Jump$tart National Educator Conference in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2010. It made a deep impression. Sure, the food and accommodations were great. But I’ve never lost the image of all those experts and passionate educators in one place-and the booths with free resources for personal finance teachers like me.
This robust annual gathering, where Right About Money Founder Dan Kadlec delivered the keynote in Dallas last year, remains the only national conference devoted entirely to personal finance education in schools. I recommend teachers that are serious about this calling try to get there at least once.
Fast forward to today. I volunteer as the president of Ohio Jump$tart, a state affiliate of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. Laura Levine serves as the President and CEO. I asked her what makes Jump$tart different.
“Collaboration,” she said. “As a coalition, we’re really not one organization, but many. Nearly 150 national partners and 51 state affiliates. Everything we do-our Clearinghouse, our conference, our communications, and our public awareness initiatives-is designed to promote the accomplishments and resources of our partners and affiliates. I like to say financial literacy is what we do; collaboration is how we do it.”
If any one tool speaks to the organization’s collaborative spirit, it’s the Jump$tart Clearinghouse. This online library of financial education resources is ideal for teachers, parents, caregivers, and anyone committed to financial smarts for students. Finding the right resource is as easy tapping a few keystrokes to enter things like grade level and subject matter. Many resources are free but others may cost up to several hundred dollars a year.
Last summer, Ohio Jump$tart hosted a three-day teacher-training event using Jump$tart Financial Foundation Models. Teachers increased and retained their knowledge, made positive changes in their personal financial behaviors, and integrated what they had learned into their teaching, researchers found. The training came at no cost to teachers. I asked Levine what prompted the development of the training materials.
“Financial Foundations for Educators was an idea from Ted Beck (CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education and former Jump$tart chairman),” she said. “It sprang from University of Wisconsin-Madison research that showed most teachers thought students should take a course in personal finance but only a small percentage felt competent in the subject matter.
“We knew a lot of our partners were already providing training on how to teach personal finance and how to use the variety of resources available. What Ted felt was missing-and Jump$tart agreed-was substantive education to ensure that teachers felt confident about their own level of financial literacy.”
Personal finance education is not emphasized in most programs that lead to an education degree. With so few teachers prepared to teach personal finance, and many parents and students begging for it, Jump$tart has positioned itself to help fill the teacher preparation gap. To learn more about Jump$tart visit their website or follow them @NatlJump$tart.
Take Charge Today
Take Charge Today is a resource for teachers who don’t have time to build every lesson from scratch but still want to put their personal stamp on their financial literacy class. This is a program designed by educators, for educators. It is a part of the University of Arizona’s Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research.
One of the nation’s most respected financial literacy advocates, Michael E. Staten, leads the program, which is guided by the three pillars: curriculum design, instructional support, and professional development.
I recently interviewed Lisa Bender, director of the national master educator team at Take Charge Today. I’ve admired Lisa’s work and passion for years. She’s a teacher who rolls up her sleeves everyday to be great for kids. And when I asked Lisa what she wants the world to know about Take Charge Today she noted, “Each lesson is field tested by the master educator team prior to the lesson being delivered.”
There are seven different units. For middle school and high school Take Charge Today offers turnkey comprehensive lessons that run two weeks, nine weeks, a semester, a trimester, or a full year. Each lesson incorporates vocabulary reinforcement, a suggested way into the content, concluding activity, multiple choice assessment questions and answers, performance tasks, a PowerPoint, information sheet, and a note-taking guide.
Take Charge Today’s Active Learning Tools reinforce comprehension of financial literacy concepts. They include instructional steps for teachers to integrate technology, apps, music, movie clips and lessons, and vocabulary activities designed to engage learners.
Take Charge Today offers a Master Educator Program, which consists of nine instructors that travel the country to train teachers that are unfamiliar with the subject and how to best use the resources. These master educators are teachers themselves and understand the challenges teachers face in the classroom-and what works well for kids.
In recent years, Take Care Today has led training programs at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, Maryland State Department of Education, Iowa State Cooperative Extension, and West Virginia Finance University, and will do so in10 states this summer. North Carolina’s education department chose Take Charge Today as the primary resource for its personal finance component. The organization delivers workshops each summer for the North Carolina Department of Career & Technical Education summer conference.
To learn more about Take Charge Today visit their website or follow them @UA_TCToday.
National Endowment for Financial Education
In a lesson on identifying wants vs. needs a young student once told me his cell phone was a need. Of course, I quickly disagreed. That’s when the youngster explained to me that his Mom was raising three children without the father. She relied on him to pick up his younger siblings after school, get them dinner, and sometimes escort them to activities while she worked. Decisions needed to be made on the fly. Without his cell phone, it just would not work. I was the one who learned something that day.
That’s when I discovered the resources at the National Endowment for Financial Education. Teachers shouldn’t project their values onto students. Kids can discover their own values and how they impact financial decisions through the NEFE Life Values Quiz, which is based on rigorous academic research from consumer finance expert Lois A. Vitt.
Research shows that four categories of human values correspond to people’s concerns in life: inner, social, financial, and physical. NEFE’s free 20-question quiz gives students a glimpse into these values and how they guide decisions. NEFE also offers the Financial Identity Quiz, a 12-question assessment designed to help young adults understand the impact of their decisions on the path to financial independence.
NEFE is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering individuals’ and families’ financial decision making through every stage of life. The organization is committed to providing financial education for people at all income levels. My focus here is on a handful of its youth financial education resources and training tools for teachers. But NEFE also provides adult financial education resources, workplace training tools, research, and consumer surveys.
NEFE’s High School Financial Planning Program is turnkey financial literacy instruction focused on personal finance issues relevant to teens. The program annually reaches more than 800,000 students. Its content aligns with national academic standards related to personal finance. All online and printed materials are noncommercial, unbiased and available at no cost. Student workbooks also are available at no cost.
For college-age students NEFE offers CashCourse, a real-life guide to building life-long financial skills. The program is being offered through more than 1,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. Additionally, NEFE has built a workshop resource center to provide educators with the tools to reach the unique needs of various audiences. Financial Workshop Kits offers presentations, scripts, handouts and other resources to effectively teach money management skills.
A recent update to Smart About Money consists of five online mini-tutorials for teachers to get acquainted with the fundamentals of insurance, investing, employment, spending and saving, and borrowing. According to research, we need more and better teacher training in personal finance. These free online courses let teachers learn at their own pace and on their own schedule.
NEFE is now finalizing a series of 90-minute courses called SAM: Size up your situation, Analyze your habits, Make your plan. Each topic will speak to the needs of everyday folks, much like My Financial Well-Being Plan. SAM is a series of free online courses that allow users to learn at their own pace. They are ideal for teachers that may need to brush up on their content knowledge. The online course collects no personal information. NEFE recognizes that your personal finances are personal, says Susan Sharkey, a director with the organization.
When the full course is available I will reconnect with Sharkey and go into more detail for Right About Money. To learn more about NEFE visit their website or follow them on @NEFE_Org.
Council for Economic Education
Early in my career, I was a roaming teacher without a classroom to call my own. At one point I taught seven classes in six periods, teaching a technology class to roughly fifteen students and an AP Macro class of two students in the same time slot. I was overwhelmed-and unable to construct each lesson from scratch. My local economic center at the University of Cincinnati served as a lifeline with ready-made lessons, and I will be forever grateful.
The Council for Economic Education helps fill that gap for thousands of teachers. It has focused on the economic and financial education of students from kindergarten through high school for nearly 70 years. All resources and programs are developed by educators and delivered by a national network of affiliates-over 240 across the country. Each year, they train approximately 55,000 teachers in person, and those teachers, in turn, reach approximately 5 million students throughout the country. What makes CEE work?
“It is our model,” says Nan Morrison, President and CEO. “We combine professional development for teachers with great content. In the teacher training, we enhance teachers’ subject matter knowledge, demonstrate how to teach the lessons, and offer curriculum integration strategies. And importantly, experienced educators-professors of economics or economic education, or master teachers-conduct the training and drive the development of classroom lessons so that both meet teacher expectations.”
CEE’s Annual Financial Literacy and Economic Education Conference is jammed with learning opportunities for financial and economic education teachers. It was at a past CEE conference that I was first introduced to the Survey of the States, a comprehensive look into the state of K-12 economic and financial education in the U.S. This year’s conference will be October 6-7 for educators in trendy Brooklyn, New York.
One of my favorite CEE tools is the wildly popular EconEdLink, an internet-based interactive catalogue of economic and personal finance materials for K-12 teachers. There are hundreds of free, searchable, online lessons. Each one contains both a teacher’s version and a student’s version. EconEdLink gets more than a million visits a year. Yet CEE has been working tirelessly on improving the tool.
“We have made the site much easier to navigate and added a ‘Get Started’ section for teachers new to the site,” Morrison said. “One of my favorite new areas is the ‘topics’ section with theme-based units. We have added behavioral economics, the economics of sports, and math in the real world among others. Cyber security is coming soon, and we have just released lessons to be used with Minecraft Education in partnership with Microsoft.”
To learn more about the Council for Economic Education you can visit their website or follow them @Council4EconEd.