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Why Not Make a Gift of Financial Education This Season?

By Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz
Key Points
  • Teachers are asking for help and support to bring financial education to their classrooms.

  • You can help by making a contribution to DonorsChoose.org to fund financial literacy projects in your own community and across the country.

  • As a parent, you can do your part in supporting teachers by starting your own kids' financial education early on.

Dear Readers, 

In the spirit of the holidays, I've been writing a lot about giving lately—especially how to make your charitable contributions go farther. 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 that 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 PriceWaterhouse Coopers study, while 92 percent of K12 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 currently only 17 states 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 Z showed a lack of understanding about the basics of "good" and "bad" debt, with a third not recognizing carrying a credit card balance as "bad" debt. To me, this presents a problem—and an opportunity.

What DonorsChoose.org 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.org 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 targeted 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. And you can specify schools in your favorite communities.

How parents can start financial education at home

Another important finding from the DonorsChoose.org study I mentioned above is that 95 percent of teachers believe that 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 that’s 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.org 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 PreK-2nd grade include: The Coin Counting Book; Lily Learns About Wants and Needs; Real-Working Cash Register.
  • Grades 3-8 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.

 

Have a personal finance question? Email us at askcarrie@schwab.com. Carrie cannot respond to questions directly, but your topic may be considered for a future article. For Schwab account questions and general inquiries, contact Schwab.

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DonorsChoose.org is not affiliated with Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. or Charles Schwab Foundation. The Charles Schwab Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, private foundation that is not part of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. or its parent company, The Charles Schwab Corporation.

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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. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager. 

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