At Woodbridge High School in western Sussex County, business pathway teacher Joshua Getka is working to make sure students won’t graduate without the knowledge they need to handle their finances in the best way possible — whatever their economic backgrounds.
In Newark, the University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics is working to make sure Getka and teachers like him around the state have everything they need to teach students those key financial skills.
Toward that end, CEEE is offering a new series of training sessions called the Foundations of Financial Literacy, which brings in experts from academia and the business world to offer refresher workshops on financial concepts and discuss how to teach them. It’s sponsored by the Delaware Council on Economic Education with financial support from Robinhood.
“We felt that we needed to offer our Delaware teachers more. So what we came up with was this Foundations of Financial Literacy series,” CEEE Assistant Director Scott Bacon said. In the past, CEEE has offered a personal finance refresher for teachers about once a year.
“Research shows that people that have financial literacy education make better financial decisions for themselves,” Bacon continued. “They learn how to make choices and consider the costs and benefits of those choices. They go on to have higher credit scores, and they have lower default rates.”
When teachers receive financial training, their students perform better on national assessments, Bacon said. “So that’s an important piece for us, is making sure that teachers have the resources, but especially are trained in using those resources, because we know that has a direct result on student outcomes.”
The series launched Nov. 7 at UD’s Fintech Innovation Hub on the Star Campus, with dinner and a presentation from Richard Jakotowicz, a finance instructor at the Lerner College. Jakotowicz spoke about Lerner’s finance degree, and Alex Lambros, a senior majoring in financial planning and wealth management, introduced teachers to the Blue Hen Investment Club and how it manages its investment portfolio. Finally, Nathan Franklin, the director of student services and communications for UD’s Student Financial Services, shared strategies about paying for college.
It was the first of five sessions offered through April, with lessons via Zoom on topics like real estate and money management. The series wraps up April 17 in person again at the Star Campus, with dinner and prizes and a discussion on financial technology (fintech) and how to understand it by Laura Field, the Donald J. Puglisi Professor of Finance, and Fei Xie, Chaplin Tyler Professor of Finance.
Getka has been taking advantage of the courses so far. In his role at Woodbridge High School, he educates students about financial concepts related to the business pathway and their personal lives too. His students live in an area where many families have low incomes, and there are few brick and mortar bank branches. Online banking is an option, but internet access can be a challenge in this area too.
“I saw more and more of a need, that these concepts weren’t being taught to high school students, and that (students) were leaving high school underprepared,” Getka said.
Skills like applying for a credit card, opening a Roth IRA, or shopping for insurance “are absolutely necessary, regardless of what their future plans are,” Getka said.
Without this knowledge, young people can fall victim to unwise schemes that cost them a lot of money in the long run.
Since 2019 alone, almost 100 teachers in Delaware have taken advantage of the 47-lesson “Keys to Financial Success” personal finance program that CEEE offers in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, said Gail Colbert, personal finance program coordinator for the Center.
Since this is the first year for the Foundations of Financial Literacy series, they’re seeing how it goes and may tweak the program as needed based on feedback. Bacon said the mix of in-person sessions and Zoom meetings is a way to balance the value of face-to-face conversations with the needs of teachers who may not have time to travel to Newark.
Getka, one of those who has a long way to travel to Newark, said he doesn’t have a lot of time to spare. But he counts CEEE as a good use of that time. “All of their programming is pretty great,” he said, and he tries to work the events into his calendar whenever he has a chance. “I have yet to be at anything that hasn’t been thoroughly planned and thoroughly executed, which I know other teachers appreciate.”
The Foundations of Financial Literacy has given Getka a chance to hear from other professionals in similar situations, and “it allows me to get a different perspective, which I know the students appreciate.”
At a recent Zoom meeting, teachers logged on to hear from Lou Himelreich, a chartered financial consultant for Financial Advisors of Delaware Valley and an alumnus of the Salesianum School in Wilmington. Himelreich reviewed financial topics he works on with his clients, like using debt wisely, how credit scores work, the importance of different kinds of insurance and the potential power of a savings account.
At the end, teachers were able to chat about the difficulty of teaching these concepts in districts where poverty is an issue, and how they can advise students who may not be able to take advantage of all the resources Himelreich discussed.
Himelreich said part of what he does is help clients figure out what is most important in their situation and what their financial goals actually are — as opposed to trying to convince them of what those priorities should be.
Looking ahead in the series, another session that caught Getka’s eye is in February, when a representative from Bank of America is slated to discuss guidelines for students to help manage their money. A lot of what students learn in school, Getka said, is about someday in the future, when they have rent or utilities to pay. That’s simulation, not real-life experience. But teens also interact with money now, and Getka is interested in insights on practical skills they can use while they’re still in school.
He wants his students to be prepared to navigate their futures in a changing community that’s experiencing population growth. “And the only way to do that is to inform them in those formative years now.”
For more information about taking part in the Foundations of Financial Literacy series, contact Scott Bacon at firstname.lastname@example.org.