Sunday, July 6, 2008

Teaching Financial Literacy at BELL

Over the next six weeks I’ll be crazy busy teaching kids about money. There’s a program called BELL here in Boston – Building Educated Leaders for Life. Their mission is to enhance the educational achievements, self-esteem, and life opportunities of elementary school children living in low-income, urban communities.

They offer a six week summer program that teaches kids literacy and math in the morning. In the afternoon the kids take enrichment classes on topics like music and art – or any other topic that may seem interesting. I approached them about teaching financial literacy and they agreed.

I’ll be working with 10 to 12 year old kids teaching them everything about checking accounts, budgeting, paychecks, and taxes, as well as credit cards, credit reports, savings and investing. I get one hour a day, four days a week for six weeks with these kids. The classes are split up by grade level, but there are almost 50 scholars total.

I created a program where the scholars get a “paycheck” every two weeks that they have to “deposit” into their pretend checking accounts. I created personalized paychecks, designed to look as real as possible, showing all the tax deductions, calculated as realistically as possible.

The scholars will also receive pretend checkbooks with check registers where they’ll learn to write out checks and maintain their check register. Throughout the six week program they’ll go “shopping” everyday, which involves reaching in a bag and pulling out cards I’ve designed that say things like “You’ve gone shopping at Stop & Shop. Pay $64.35.” “Your TV is on the blink. Pay $41.50 to the repairman.” Every weekend I’ll gather up their folders and paperwork and check all their math to make sure they’re maintaining their checkbooks properly.

I’ve also designed realistic utility bills personalized to each scholar. They each receive five bills with different due dates. The scholar has to remember to pay their bill by the appropriate date, or they pay a late fee. They also pay fines if they lose or forget their folders or checkbooks, if they mismanage their money (don’t update their register, etc.) or if they misbehave in class (Tickets of Disrespect). Twice they’ll be given mini-tests where they can earn bonus checks based on their performance.

I’ve priced the program so that by the end of the class, if a scholar does everything perfectly, they should have $100 left in their “checking account”. Although BELL offers a small stipend for the program, it basically just covers some of the supplies. I would love it if a sponsor would step in and actually provide real dollars for a percentage of the amounts in each scholar’s checking account. I’ve suggested it to the Program Directors, but no promises yet.

Tune in for more updates on how the classes are going and how the students are responding.