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JA highlights early financial literacy

August 26, 2018

Last week I met with Bernadine Venditto, Keith Wolff and Janet Ursone of Junior Achievement (JA) to discuss my favorite topic: financial literacy education. It turns out that financial literacy is one of “three main pillars” that underpin JA’s work, explained Venditto, who is president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Greater Fairfield County, a recent merger of two local JAs. Ursone is vice president of development, and Wolff is business development manager.

JA’s goal is to give students “knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship.”

That work has not gone unnoticed. JA was recognized with the EIFLE Award for “Organization of the Year” by the Institute for Financial Literacy (www.FinancialLit.org), a nonprofit whose mission is to promote effective delivery of consumer financial products, services and education by acknowledging the accomplishments of those who advance financial literacy education. (I’m familiar with the EIFLE Award as an honoree for two of my books, “Managing Retirement Wealth” and “The AARP Retirement Survival Guide.”)

Today’s world of easy credit, consumerism, student loan debt and the responsibility to invest for retirement elevates the importance of financial literacy education. Imagine if that education can start as early as grade school. JA programs start in kindergarten.

“No matter your age, once you learn a concept, such as budgeting, it’s something you don’t forget,” explained Venditto.

True enough. I recall a 4th-grade teacher talking about the stock market, something that I’ve never forgotten, so much so that it sparked my interest in a Wall Street career.

Starting early is impactful and important, especially given the time value of money. As Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA, noted recently: “One of the reasons Americans don’t save enough for retirement is that they get started too late. By teaching teens today about the importance of contributing to 401(k)s and IRAs starting with their first job, we may be able to start addressing that issue.”

Are students interested in learning? A recent JA survey of teens said absolutely. Teens were asked if they thought it would be valuable to have personal finance classes in high school. An overwhelming 95 percent said yes. Ninety-one percent also said they sought financial advice; most (72 percent) reached out to their parents or guardians. To see the 2018 JA Teens & Personal Finance Survey, go to https://tinyurl.com/JA2018Survey.

JA courses are taught in schools by corporate and community volunteers trained by JA.

Volunteering doesn’t just benefit the students. According to a Deloitte Impact Survey (https://tinyurl.com/DeloitteImpactSurvey), volunteers themselves develop stronger professional and leadership skills.

To see a sample JA program, take a look at JA Economics for Success at https://tinyurl.com/JAEconomics. This middle school program includes smart budgeting, wise credit use and minimizing financial risk to teach how to apply financial management skills regardless of income.

Contact your local JA. In Fairfield County (Conn.), email Wolff at kwolff@jawct.org. (Wolff would also like to hear from you if you yourself participated in a JA program.)

For other parts of the country, go to https://tinyurl.com/JAVolunteers. To find a JA branch near you, go to https://tinyurl.com/JANearYou.

We’ll return to the subject of financial literacy programs for children again in a few weeks.

In a recent column, I asked readers to share their views about this column by emailing me (readers@juliejason.com) or taking a short survey at www.JulieJason.com/survey. I’ll keep the survey open until Wednesday, Aug. 29, and share the results with you in an upcoming column. Thank you in advance for your help.

Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant of Stamford, Conn.) and author, welcomes your questions/comments (readers@juliejason.com). Her awards include the 2018 Clarion Award, symbolizing excellence in clear, concise communications. Her latest book, a curated collection of Julie’s columns, is “Retire Securely: Insights on Money Management From an Award-Winning Financial Columnist.” To hear Julie speak, visit www.juliejason.com/events.

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