Thursday, April 12, 2012
Financial Literacy Can Be Fun!
Where Was Financial Literacy When I Was a Kid?
As I reflect upon my childhood, my only experience with anything remotely related to a financial education took place at home each year during our annual garage sale: that lone Saturday in the year when I was allowed to make cold hard cash selling whatever junk I decided was worth less than the quarter I could get for it. Where other memories have faded, the sheer joy of adding up my earnings has remained over the years.
Fifteen years later, I was on the college track to become an elementary school teacher. In addition to my garage sale experience, by now my financial repertoire also included expert cash-counting abilities honed during my part-time jobs as a cashier and waitress, and the ability to frantically track the money flowing out of my savings account. At this time, most of my friends were other soon-to-be teachers who appeared to know as much about finance as I did.
This was also the time, however, that the growing language barrier between my teacher friends and business school friends became apparent to me, as our schooling seemed to be taking place in entirely different languages. As I listened to these budding businesspeople discussing their coursework, I realized that the language of business and finance was one I wasn’t learning to speak - and quite frankly, didn’t think that was any cause for alarm.
Fast forward another decade or so (wink!) and the reality has set in: I live in the ‘real world’ now and out here, not speaking the language of finance comes at a monetary cost – directly withdrawn from the bank accounts of those lacking fluency. As we’ve all learned from current economic events, financial decisions are intricately woven into every aspect of our daily lives. And we all understand that ‘speaking the language’ isn’t an option now, but a necessity. In order to make smart choices for ourselves, our families and our world, we must have (at minimum) a basic understanding of financial terms and concepts.
I wish I had understood these hard truths and learned these lessons while I was still teaching elementary school. I would have enjoyed the opportunity to empower my students with at least some version of Finance 101.
BizWorld, a non-profit where I have the responsibility of working on programs to teach kids about business and finance. One minute I was trying to wrap my head around risk tolerance, diversification and economic forecasting, and the next, I was teaching these same concepts to a group of middle schoolers in Oakland, CA. The students were in 7th grade, working at a 4th grade level in math, 90% English Learners…and they got it! Not only did they get it, they had fun, too!
I was sold.
And still am.
More than ever, now is the time to give the next generation the financial education many of us never received. Though we may not feel like the ‘experts’ in this area, we know kids and we know that if we can teach it, they can learn it.
Imagine the impact of a generation of students who grow up understanding that they are in control of their own financial futures. Imagine how their careers and families might be affected.
Imagine the impact on our nation’s future.
BizWorld offers three different programs, and all of the curriculums are available for free in digital format. BizWorld and BizMovie are for grades 3 through 8, and the BizWiz finance program is for grades 5 - 8. In celebration of Financial Literacy Month, our generous donors at The BizWorld Foundation are covering the cost of the entire BizWiz curriculum kit for grades 5 through 8 (worth $189) for anyone who would like to teach it during this school year. If you don’t think teaching finance can be fun for you and your students, I encourage you to get your program kit today and be as surprised as I was!
Vice President, Education