Financial Literacy for High School

Guest blog from Moneythink CMU

Moneythink CMU is the Carnegie Mellon chapter of a national organization oriented at educating today’s youth in financial literacy. Our chapter of over 40 CMU students goes in weekly to mentor high school students in various underprivileged high schools around the greater Pittsburgh area. In partnership with Hear Me, our chapter interviewed a handful of our mentees to garner their feedback on how not only the material we teach, but also our mentorship impacted them.

We interviewed them in person, to increase receptivity, using voice recordings to allow us to get to know the students more personally and for them to have a more meaningful impact to those who listen to these testimonials – as opposed to having the students respond through a more detached written form of evaluation of their thoughts. The feedback we received narrated how the students lacked basic personal finance skills from their past education. But we were humbled by how they soon revealed both how thankful they were to learn the skills we taught them and how it changed their habits in their everyday lives. These changes impacted their personal spending and saving habits in a positive way as they recognized the value in utilizing institutionalized financial services instead of managing it all themselves – a financially sound choice.

The clips we highlight here illustrate the impact Moneythink has had on three students from Taylor Alderdice High School. One of these students, Henry, shared how our program forged an interest in alternative money-saving techniques, not the least of which includes stockbroking. His newfound understanding of the concept of risk and return, a concept to which not many Americans today have been exposed, once again, highlights the unique impact Moneythink has had, and continues to have, on students at such a tender age. Personally, I found Henry’s precocity in his knowledge of financial markets to be unbelievably amazing considering the fact that he attends a secondary school where most of his peers have trouble understanding basic financial literacy, let alone financial markets. If I were in his shoes, and grew up in his environment, I am not sure whether I would have been able to achieve the level of understanding he has procured, which further underscores Henry’s altogether remarkable skill set. Listen to Henry's interview here.

Another student, Seti, has expressed how Moneythink has enabled him to become far more informed on topics ranging from credit cards, debt, and loans, to saving by differentiating between his needs and wants. His poignant accounts of taking loans from his family indicate that our curriculum has allowed him to graduate from many of his peers, who simply are given grants, in the form of allowance, from their parents. Furthermore, through his job and prudent spending, which is curtailed by his cognizance of when he is spending on something essential or superfluous, Seti is able to maintain a clean balance sheet with his finances. I was particularly impressed by the manner in which Seti was able to articulate the method by which he acquired his loans. From this impression, I must say that it is reasonably foreseeable that Seti will look into pursuing opportunities in the financial sector. Listen to Seti's interview here.

Our third student, Tess, demonstrated a rather sophisticated understanding of interest rates. Like Henry, Tess has also striven to procure a future in stockbroking as she expressed a keen gravitas for the topics discussed by Moneythink. Armed with this nascent appreciation for personal finance, Tess distinguishes herself in an affirming way from her peers which will carry her above and beyond the competition as she enters into this brave new world, for which she is sure to thank Moneythink. Tess surprised me with her analytical understanding of interest rates, a highly quantitative skill. Because interest rates are concept which not many people at such a young age understand, Tess’ acumen in this subject firmly makes me believe that she will be able to capitalize on her knowledge at a much faster rate when she enters the workforce, a competitive advantage which I find empowering. Listen to Tess's interview here.