Financial literacy efforts in the U.S. need some work

Please visit The Nation’s Report Card on Financial Literacy and see what grade your state has earned for its financial literacy efforts when you have a few minutes. I want to spotlight two states near and dear to my heart, North Carolina and California. North Carolina is my home state (born and raised in Durham), and they received an A. I currently reside in Oakland, CA and California received a D. That grade doesn’t sit too well with me.

John F. Kennedy famously said, “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” After learning of this report card website, I decided I would try to make a difference. So I set out on a data-gathering and outreach adventure that would keep me occupied for a few months. I compiled a list of about 250 School Board Members and high school Administrative leaders, like Principals, Vice Principals, Deans of Students, etc., and various teachers. If you’re curious about why I targeted high schools, here’s why.  

I’ve spent countless hours volunteering at elementary, middle, and high schools (through my work with the Urban Financial Services Coalition), conducting financial literacy sessions. While some have professed that earlier is better, I’ve seen the biggest and most immediate impact happen at the high school level. Thus, I decided to focus my efforts there.

What would I offer these high schools to help improve financial literacy? A free, 6-part high school financial planning curriculum courtesy of the National Endowment of Financial Education (NEFE). This curriculum was legit! It came equipped with the lesson, a teacher’s guide to the lesson, and supporting materials for the lesson. Literally, anyone could pick up this curriculum and teach any one of the six lessons. In my mind, I knew this curriculum would be a huge hit!

I curated a series of emails that I would send to giveaway this free high school financial planning curriculum. To make sure I didn’t seem like a scammer, I was completely transparent about why they were receiving this email and what I expected to gain from it. There were no ulterior motives. Just say you wanted the curriculum, and I will send it over. 

Well, this experiment didn’t go like I thought it would. I sent over 1000 emails (over those few months), and the response rate was abysmal. Of the few who responded to at least one email, here are my favorite responses:

  • “Not interested!”
  • “I’m too busy to include financial literacy into my lesson plan” (this was from a math teacher)
  • “I’m not confident in my personal financial skills to teach such a robust curriculum.” (No experience was required to teach the lesson plan. It was all laid out, so you could “fake it til you make it”)
  • “We don’t have the budget to pay you” (I didn’t ask for any money. I was volunteering to donate a curriculum)

I can’t say that I’m completely shocked by the lack of response because most of the country doesn’t teach financial literacy in school. But I was hoping for a few outliers who might have truly understood that my efforts were pure. Plus, my experience over the years taught me that the faculty/staff at schools are uncomfortable with administering any financial literacy program because of their personal relationship with money.

So what now? If you’re reading this and you are a high school teacher, high school administrator, or school board member and would like to discuss the financial literacy curriculum in more detail, send an email to In the subject line, write FinLit Kids. Or, if you have a good relationship with a high school teacher, high school administrator, or school board member, please share this article and encourage them to reach out so we can have a discussion about we can leverage this 6-part financial literacy curriculum to educate our youth.

The #BuildWealth Movementworks tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty™ for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.

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