Empowering high school students through financial education: A volunteer’s perspective

Chris Merker, Director, Private Asset Management at Baird and Executive-in-Residence at Marquette University has been involved with SecureFutures from its inception in 2006. He recalls a launch party for SecureFutures, known as Make a Difference Wisconsin back then, on the river in the Third Ward where he met the President and CEO Brenda Campbell, describing it as a “historic occasion.” Chris became Board President of the CFA Society of Milwaukee in 2015, helping to establish the CFA Society of Milwaukee Foundation, which is now the Wisconsin Financial Literacy Foundation, host of the annual charity golf outing for SecureFutures.

After several years of promoting SecureFutures institutionally through the CFA Society, and once his term was up as Board President, Chris decided to continue his journey by becoming a volunteer instructor for Money Path because of the impactful capabilities of the application.

I think it’s a wonderful program. I talk it up whenever I’m out with people interested in the topic of personal finance. I’m such a believer in the Money Path app that I feel like it should be in the hands of every high school student in the United States.”

While Chris has dedicated his life to financial literacy, going to business school, becoming a financial advisor, getting his Ph.D. in finance, and even writing a book, The Trustee Governance Guide, he had nothing like Money Path to guide him growing up.

“I think about my own planning and career development, and it was like fumbling in the dark. The power of having information at their fingertips to think about what career to choose, how to budget and the financial implications around that is pretty amazing.”

Chris firmly believes in the power of volunteering, particularly in the realm of financial education. He believes that the opportunity to enter classrooms and mentor students in an area that is often underserved in schools is immensely rewarding.

“The payoff of going into a classroom and helping students so fundamentally is a no-brainer for me and I hope, for anyone who understands the importance of financial education.”

When it comes to teaching financial concepts to teens, Chris stresses the importance of guiding the students rather than telling them there’s a right or wrong answer. He wants the students to learn that life is about trade-offs and to think about what’s important to them now and what will be important for them in the future. For Chris, money management and financial literacy are essential skills, fundamental to the economy and the betterment of people’s lives and he’s dedicated to continuing his volunteer journey with SecureFutures.

“I plan to keep going into schools in the suburbs and going into schools in the inner city because it’s an issue that affects everybody.”

Thank you to Chris and to all our amazing volunteers for the work that you do bringing financial capability to teens in our community. If you’re interested in learning more about our volunteer opportunities contact Maria Fuller, Volunteer Manager, at maria@securefutures.org.

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