The next 15 years of financial education

by Brenda Campbell, President and CEO

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By now you’ve probably heard that SecureFutures is celebrating 15 years of empowering teens with financial education. A milestone like this is a great time to look back with gratitude, recognizing the innumerable people (like you!) who have made it possible for this organization to reach more than 90,000 teens since 2006. It’s also a great time to look forward with optimism, recognizing the opportunities that still exist and the work we have in front of us to ensure that every teen has the financial knowledge, tools, and mentorship to build a secure future.

As I look towards the next 15 years, I see many needs still unmet, showing how critical our mission continues to be.

  • Finances continue as a barrier for many young adults. A recent national survey from Experian shows that 51% of young people are afraid money issues will prevent them from doing what they want in life.
  • Many in Wisconsin lack financial wellness. This infographic from the WI Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) starkly shows the gap in financial security and capability. Thirty-four percent (34%) of Wisconsinites struggle to afford basic household necessities. Sixty percent (60%) can’t correctly answer basic financial literacy questions.
  • We continue to see the impact of the pandemic, which revealed, and in some cases, deepened existing financial inequities. It led to uncertainty and insecurity for many: 7 out of 10 students had to change post-graduation plans as a result of COVID-19. At the same time, it has demonstrated to many the importance of financial education and healthy financial practices such as building emergency savings.

I also see encouraging signs of hope in the impact of our work and the work of our partners.

  • In Wisconsin, the DFI updated the Wisconsin Standards for Personal Financial Literacy and administered the Financial Literacy Innovation Grant program to help educators adopt and implement the new standards. Governor Evers also expanded the mission and membership of the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy to include a greater emphasis on financial inclusion.
  • Milwaukee became one of only 12 urban school districts in the US to adopt a personal finance course graduation requirement. They also hired the phenomenal Marti Diaz in the new position of Financial Literacy Teacher Mentor.  Kristen Ruhl and I are proud to serve on Marti’s advisory council as we work together to make MPS a national leader in financial education.
  • At SecureFutures, Money Path was made available free of cost to every school in Wisconsin, through support from key sponsor Heartland Advisors and others.

The challenges are many, but so are the opportunities! As I envision the next 15 years for SecureFutures, I see several areas of focus that will help us continue to create meaningful impact for the next generation of money smart teens:

  • Prioritize diverse perspectives on the board, on our staff, and among our volunteers. I’m so excited to learn from the leadership of Jeremy Cain, who will be the first SecureFutures program alum to be stepping into the role of Board Chairperson this year. We also have former students stepping up as volunteers and Board and committee members. Their perspectives will be invaluable in creating a vision for what comes next.
  • Continue to center financial equity and inclusion. In all of our programs, we see financial inclusion as one of our central goals, and we’ll continue to work to expand access to financial institutions and opportunities through financial education. As a member of the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy and Capability, I also see it as part of my role to be a vocal advocate for under-resourced students throughout our state.
  • Set ambitious goals for Money Path. It’s thrilling that Money Path is now available free of cost to every school in Wisconsin. But we’re not going to stop there. We’ve seen how life-changing this tool can be for students planning their academic, career, and financial futures, and we want to make it available nationwide.
  • Continue to adapt and stay relevant as needs change. Throughout our 15-year history, we’ve known the importance of listening and learning as we go. We must continue to pay attention to how the needs of teens and educators are changing and respond to those needs.

It’s such a privilege to have the opportunity to reflect on these past 15 years and to envision an exciting future for SecureFutures and its mission. Once again, I extend my gratitude to all  who have collaborated to create an organization that made and will continue to make a difference through the power of financial education. I look forward to the next 15 years!