Does Financial Literacy Work?

In a 2010 Time Magazine article entitled (inaccurately),”How to teach Kids About Money”, the author really discussed the idea that most financial literacy programs do NOT work. I was so incensed by this article that I wrote a blog post to address it.

The fact is, most financial literacy programs DON’T work but it’s not because financial education doesn’t work. It’s because the programs that are generally used DON’T work AND because they are only taught for a very short period of time during the child’s education. Most of these programs are boring and not relevant to the kids at the time.

The kids and teens who attend Camp Millionaire and play The Money Game have a great time learning about money and investing. They learn because it’s fun and we make it relevant to their lives and their futures. They learn because they are doing money as it’s done in real life with The Money Game simulation education game.

When people ask if we have proof that our program is successful, I ask them, “What is successful? Is math successful? Is English successful? What exactly are they asking?”

If success means they will be more responsible in their lives then, Yes, it’s successful.

If success means they will have a clue how to become financially free, then Yes, it’s successful.

If success means they passed some stupid test to prove they ‘recalled’ or ‘remembered’ or ‘memorized’ a bunch of words, well, I can’t speak to that because I refuse to give them a test at the beginning and ending of camp. Talk about sending the wrong message.

I can tell you this…the kids, teens and adults that do go through our programs have a much better chance of growing up financially free than the ones that don’t.

And we call that successful.

When should we teach financial education in school?

We should teach financial education EVERY YEAR, starting in about 5th grade. Why every year, you ask?

How many years do we teach kids about English? Math? Writing? P.E (probably not a good subject since many schools have dropped this essential part of all human beings days), Health? History?

Right…kids study these subjects every year.

And why do we teach these subjects every year? Because kids forget! Because they don’t use it until they need it. Because it’s THAT IMPORTANT.

Am I a little passionate about this topic? You bet I am and you should be, too! Only when we expose our children and teens to financial education over and over again when they are young will they retain it and therefore, be able to use it as they become adults who will hopefully be responsible for themselves and their future families. THIS is when we’ll start to see a change in our nation’s financial situation on a community and national level.

Results from an evaluation of a Money Camp Summer 2007

The Money Camp summer program was held in Virginia Beach from June 18 to June 22, 2007, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The VCE staff trained the partnership how to teach the curriculum to ensure a fun-filled learning environment. Staff from the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Beach Schools Federal Credit Union administered and facilitate the program. Fourteen youth attended. They ranged in age from 12-14. Three evaluations were received from 11 participants and six month evaluations were received from 12 participants.

  • Eight participants were writing financial goals at 3 months but only 6 were still writing them at 6 months.
  • Seven participants had developed a written spending plan and were still using it at the 6-month evaluation.
  • Eight participants said they used a plan when they went shopping. This had dropped to 5 by the time of the 6-month evaluation.
  • 11 participants had saved $961.50 by the 3-month evaluation or an average of $87.41 per participant. 12 participants saved $1,549.25 or an average of $129.11.
  • Eight had banks at home, and 6 had an account at a bank or credit union or school bank. Three participants said they had a mutual fund. Five had CDs, and three had savings bonds.
  • Six of the students received an allowance and 2 had jobs and 2 had their own business (cutting grass and creative designs.
  • Nine participants understood that Financial Freedom was their choice and that they need to save and spend wisely.

Ten parents returned surveys.

  • Nine felt the camp prepared their child to handle money more effectively.
  • All ten felt the camp gave their child the tools they need to achieve financial freedom and increased the child’s knowledge about managing money.

Comments from parents:

‘They are eager to start investing now’.

‘Alyssa has a savings account that she’s watched for several years. She’s now excited to know more about how money functions in our society’.

‘One of my children changed his opinions about managing money to a great extent. My other child just expanded on what was already taught. To her, it was like adding more knowledge.

‘This is a wonderful camp! I am so glad I was told about it! My daughter now wants her own business!! Thank you for a job well done and for building skills, knowledge, and hope.’

‘Thank you for making the management of money a priority for my teen. He now sees more clearly the need to budget, save and spend wisely. These are valuable skills that will help him be successful in the career of his choice.’

We have so many positive testimonials from parents that we have no doubt that our program is effective at changing young lives but our favorite thing of all is when we run into one of our parents out in the world and they thank us over and over again. Gives us a reason to get up in the morning!

What you can do to make a difference:

  • Implement the Camp Millionaire program in your classroom and school
  • Send your kids to a financial education camp in the summer
  • Invest in The Money Game for your children’s teacher or school
  • Learn how to teach The Money Game or Camp Millionaire and volunteer to teach at a local school or youth organization
  • Bring the program to your church’s youth group
  • Bring the program into a local homeschool program
  • Teach The Money Game to at-risk youth and families in shelters, juvenile facilities, etc.
  • Donate much-needed funds to provide scholarships for kids to attend programs or provide The Money Game to teachers who want to use it but can’t afford it.

The opportunities to make a difference and change the course of financial literacy in this country and internationally. What will you do to help?