This Tuesday, I attended the Massachusetts Financial Education Collaborative Summit at the Boston Federal Reserve Bank. The event gathers interested teachers, non-profits, government representatives, and private sector institutions from across the state to discuss financial literacy initiatives. Here are four lessons I learned about financial education in Massachusetts:
1. Most initiatives are in Boston.
AIER was actually the only organization representing the Berkshire region at this event. While this does not necessarily mean there are no initiatives going on in the Berkshire region towards increasing financial literacy, it does definitely call for an increased need in the Western part of the state.
2. Financial literacy is not the same as economic literacy, but both are necessary.
There has been much written on the state of financial education on the U.S. The New York Times has covered surveys that reveal most Americans are not confident in their knowledge of basic financial concepts, such as inflation, interest, and investments. The MFEC event captured much of this problem. Many of the workshops were aimed at helping students learn to make financial decisions. However, in the public sphere there has been less frequent attention paid to economic literacy. Common core standards point out that economic literacy represents the in-depth conceptual understanding behind financial decision making. Thus, perhaps both types of literacy are important in increasing financial education.
3. While Massachusetts is technically failing, organizations are working hard.
In 2013, Champlain College released its annual national report card on state efforts to improve financial literacy. Most states aren’t doing too well. Massachusetts, in fact, received an “F” in high school financial literacy education. It does not require high schools to have personal finance classes, nor does it require that students take economics.
While the state hasn’t made the grade, organizations within the state are certainly working hard to come up with innovative and interesting ways to teach students about economics and finance before college.
Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, for example, has a Credit for Life fair where students fill out a real budget based on what they want their dream careers to be.
Blue Hills Bank has reached more than 80 schools with its free musical on saving and other concepts catered to elementary students.
4. Technology matters.
Almost every workshop had some nod to the importance of technology. These took many different forms: from video games and computer modules being pitched to students to text polling at the event itself and video presentations. Many authors have written about the new generation “i” (iPod; iBook; iLife), wherein new students need engaging, quick, animated, and technology-laden materials to learn best. It was interesting to hear that new financial literacy initiatives are jumping on board.
[Photo: Chris Drumm/ Flickr]