Building a Foundation for Financial Literacy

Tools for teaching and early exploration of economics

You might think that a story about a hair salon can’t teach kids a complex subject like economics. But Andrew Hill, the Philadelphia Fed’s top educator, said you might be surprised.

“Uncle Jed’s Barbershop is the story of a budding barber who faces challenges trying to open his own shop,” Hill said. “It’s part of a program we created many years ago, but I still hear today how teachers use it to bring economics into their classrooms at very young ages.”

April is Financial Literacy Month, but teaching personal finance and economics is something the Fed does year-round. Developing the knowledge and skills of consumers so they can make sound financial decisions is part of our Bank’s mission to support economically healthy households and communities.

Hill has been engaged in this work at the Philadelphia Fed for nearly 20 years. His work focuses on those important early years where the foundations of financial education are just being formed – part of the curriculum is even used in pre-K grades.

“You can never start too early,” Hill said. “The sooner a student can learn how the economy works and how their spending and saving habits can impact the options they may have in terms of housing, credit, and even job prospects. , the better equipped he will be to make wiser choices. ”

The Hill’s team creates and manages a wide range of educational resources and professional development programs for elementary, middle and high school teachers. Some are one-day workshops, while others are longer-term trainings that provide program support and learning opportunities with other Third District educators, including Eastern Pennsylvania. , southern New Jersey and Delaware, as well as the nation. Teachers also receive professional development credits in their respective states for their participation.

Each year, our economic education team trains approximately 300 teachers across the country, primarily in our District. It is estimated that these teachers reach more than 20,000 students each year. During the pandemic, the trainings have continued by moving to a virtual format.

“Virtual switching was both advantageous and disadvantageous,” Hill said. “Because we developed asynchronous lessons where teachers could learn at their own pace, it offered flexibility.”

But Hill also noted that some of the spontaneous collaboration was lost and that, in general, many teachers felt fatigued by the ever-changing virtual learning environment.

“We plan to keep some of the online courses that have worked well, but we are also looking forward to starting to offer our in-person teacher training professional development programs again,” he said.

Provide the keys to financial success

A popular program is Keys to Financial Success. Created through a partnership between the Philadelphia Fed and the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware, the program is designed to increase the financial literacy of high school students. To date, the program has trained over 400 teachers and around 180 schools are currently offering the course.

The program consists of 47 lessons divided into nine topics that cover everything from banking and credit, to housing and transportation, to careers and planning, and more. Throughout the course, students are challenged to think critically, problem solve, and make decisions about personal finance topics they may face as adults.

“A lot of students don’t realize the value of the course until it’s finished,” said Charles Deal, a teacher at Neshaminy High School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. “I’ve had students come back to me and say, ‘I was able to buy a house because you told us about mortgages and amortization schedules.’

The course is both adaptable to changing conditions and flexible in that it can be taught at a pace that matches the skill level of the students. Teachers who have experienced the program see how it benefits their students.

“For some people [students], this course helped them choose a career in marketing, business or finance,” said Linda Hughes, a teacher at Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. “Often you don’t realize the impact you’re going to have on your students. »

For Sherri Smith-Richardson, a social studies teacher at Franklin High School in Somerset, New Jersey, who has taught the course for more than seven years, the lessons of Keys to Financial Success extend far beyond the classroom. class.

“I keep using the word ’empower’,” she said. “That’s what we have to do with young people, we have to empower them. Because it’s our job – my generation’s job – to prepare our young people with the knowledge they need to go out into the world and conquer it.

To learn more about the Bank’s upcoming educational workshops, visit the Bank’s education section of our website.

Strengthen financial well-being on the college campus

Our financial wellness programs don’t just reach young children; they also target young adults. Two recent additions, Career Forward and Operation Uplift, aim to help students gain financial knowledge and skills that can help them successfully transition from student life to a career.

Career Forward offers one-on-one mentoring and access to monthly webinars that explore financial topics and provide career advice. Launched earlier this year with Temple University, the program is available to all majors but limited to students entering their first year.

“This program aims to help students plan for their future,” said Fatima Mboup, Research Associate in the Bank’s Research Department. “At the Bank, we have many young careerists who know the value of one-on-one support during this transition from university to professional life, which often includes many important financial decisions.

Operation Uplift is another program designed to help students. The Bank is considering outreach events at historically black colleges and universities in the Third District. The program aims to explore a wide range of financial wellness topics, such as student loans and savings, that may not be covered in traditional coursework. Robin Myers, Ken Benton and Tesia Lemelle, who work on outreach in the Bank’s Supervision, Regulation and Credit Department, are leading this initiative.

“The reality is that there are stark economic disparities in our region, in home ownership, savings and wealth building, that we need to address,” said Benton, senior regulatory specialist consumers at the bank. “If we can start building that financial education and awareness earlier when young people are making decisions that can potentially follow them into their adult lives, we can start to change those outcomes.”

Sarah J. Greer