Dear Readers: In the spirit of the holidays, I've been writing a lot lately about giving — especially how to make your charitable contributions go further. Well, here's a suggestion that's particularly close to my heart: providing teachers with the resources they need to bring financial education into their classrooms.
Charles Schwab Foundation is now partnering with DonorsChoose.org to do that very thing. What I like about this opportunity is that it's very personal. Teachers across the country identify projects and resources they would like funded, and individual donors can specify which project they want to support and how much they're able to contribute. And you can do it all on the DonorsChoose.org website.
The Very Real Need for Financial Education
There's no doubt that teachers need the help. According to a 2016 PricewaterhouseCoopers study, while 92 percent of K-12 educators nationwide believe financial education should be taught in schools, only 31 percent of teachers feel completely comfortable giving financial lessons — and only 12 percent actually do it. Add to that the fact that only 17 states currently require high school students to take a course in personal finance — a critical life skill — and you end up with a dramatic number of kids ill-prepared to make their way in the real world.
For instance, a recent Schwab Financial Literacy survey of young Millennials and Gen Zers showed a lack of understanding about the basics of "good" and "bad" debt. A third of those surveyed did not recognize that carrying a credit card balance is "bad" debt. This presents a problem — and an opportunity.
What DonorsChoose Has Contributed to Financial Literacy So Far
I always suggest researching a charity before making a donation, so I want to share some stats with you about the success of DonorsChoose since its inception in 2000:
—31 million students have been reached.
—Nearly 500,000 teachers have been helped.
—81 percent of public schools in America have posted a project on the DonorsChoose.org website.
—3.5 million donors have contributed, and there are dozens of corporate and foundation partners.
—$762 million has been raised for classrooms.
—94 percent of teachers said their funded projects increased their effectiveness in the classroom.
To me, this is pretty impressive. What's equally impressive is the collective power for change that can come from even the smallest donations when they target to a specific need. And I'm pleased that Charles Schwab Foundation, along with other corporate partners, offers various matching programs throughout the year to give your donations even greater impact. All you have to do is go to DonorsChoose.org to see what financial literacy projects need your support and how they may be matched. You can even specify schools in your favorite communities!
How Parents Can Start Financial Education at Home
The same DonorsChoose study also found that 95 percent of teachers believe some financial education should happen at home. And that certainly goes along with my own belief that you can begin teaching kids about money at a very early age. Here are some simple ways to get started:
Make money a part of everyday life. It can be as simple as talking about how you budget and save — whether on a trip to the store or a family vacation.
Help even the youngest kids learn the basics of saving and spending. For instance, have them set aside some of their allowance or gift money for something special they want. Let them buy a treat and count the change.
Give older kids money to handle, whether through a regular allowance or payment for chores. Make them responsible for sharing the cost of some of their own expenses — and don't bail them out when they overspend.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be open about family finances, sharing appropriate details as your children mature. As a parent, you can find the best ways to personalize your approach with both your sons and your daughters so that your lessons about money are most appropriate for each child. The goal is to put your kids on the road to financial independence through both experience and your own good example.
Holiday Gifts With a Financial Education Twist
Want to give your kids' financial education a boost this season? Teachers working with DonorsChoose have found the following books and games especially effective, particularly for young kids. You might want to include them on your holiday gift list.
—Suggestions for Pre-K through second grade include: The Coin Counting Book, Lily Learns About Wants and Needs, Real-Working Cash Register.
—Third- through eighth-graders can learn a lot from board games such as Payday, The Allowance Game, Monopoly and The Game of Life.
The holidays are also a great time to talk to your kids about the importance of giving — and perhaps get them involved! It not only adds to their own financial education, it will add to the genuine spirit of the season. Happy holidays to everyone!
Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, Certified Financial Planner, is president of the Charles Schwab Foundation and author of "The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty." Read more at http://schwab.com/book. You can email Carrie at [email protected] The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice. To find out more about Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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