Budgeting

Financial Literacy Where It Counts

These programs teach low-income kids money-management skills.

Sometimes, as my editor says, you get a letter from a reader that makes your day, your week, your month. We at Kiplinger's received such a letter from John Mercer, a sixth-grade teacher in Fulton, N.Y., who wanted us to know that our March cover story on how to become a millionaire had made a big impact on his students, many of whom come from low-income households.

"Sadly, most of my students believe that the only way they will ever have wealth is to win the lottery," wrote Mercer. So he used several people profiled in the story -- chef Lorena Garcia; Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker water gun; Danny and Matt Kass, snowboarders-turned-entrepreneurs -- to show his students that "qualities like perseverance, determination and hard work" lead to success.

Mercer also managed to weave in lessons about vocabulary and reading comprehension. But the real payoff was that his students "felt inspired and motivated and have the hope that anything is possible."

Mercer's experience is particularly timely because April is financial literacy month, and financial literacy is critical for low-income students. They need to learn money-management skills, but they also need to know they have a stake in the bigger economy.

I'd like to single out two other grass-roots programs that target inner-city youth. Washington Jesuit Academy, a middle school for disadvantaged boys in Washington, D.C., is one of eight schools participating in the Stocks in the Future program developed by Johns Hopkins University.

When I visited Bob Wassman's sixth-grade class, students were learning what determines stock prices. But they also earn points for class attendance and grade improvement that they can convert into real cash -- up to $80 per year -- to buy real stocks. "Learning to put a little aside will make a big difference to them when they get a job," says Wassman.

Also worthy of note is the Educated Consumer Project, which holds after-school sessions twice a week for students at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C.

Brainchild of Jonathan Kivell, a master's-degree student at Georgetown University, the program aims to introduce low-income teens to banking and credit so that, as adults, they can steer clear of payday loans.

Classes are taught by students from Georgetown and Howard universities, who ended up learning a thing or two themselves.

Most Popular

15 Stocks Warren Buffett Is Buying (And 7 He's Selling)
stocks

15 Stocks Warren Buffett Is Buying (And 7 He's Selling)

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is a bull once more! The Oracle and his team entered eight new positions and added to others in a big way.
May 17, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
The Best Stocks for a Bear Market
stocks to buy

The Best Stocks for a Bear Market

The ideal bear-market stock pick should have a defensive business, a long history of dividend growth and relatively low volatility. Here are 10 stocks…
May 18, 2022

Recommended

Things You’ll Regret Keeping in a Safe Deposit Box
savings

Things You’ll Regret Keeping in a Safe Deposit Box

Locking up certain important documents and valuables in a bank vault could turn into a headache for you or your heirs.
May 18, 2022
7 Things Medicare Doesn’t Cover
Healthy Living on a Budget

7 Things Medicare Doesn’t Cover

Medicare Part A and Part B leave some pretty significant gaps in your health-care coverage. But Medicare Advantage has problems, too.
May 4, 2022
10 Things You'll Spend Less on in Retirement
retirement

10 Things You'll Spend Less on in Retirement

We often fret about not having enough cash in retirement. But you might be surprised to see some of the things you’ll find yourself spending less on a…
May 4, 2022
How Our Family Fights Inflation
Budgeting

How Our Family Fights Inflation

Millennials typically spend more than other generations on certain expenses that have been increasing most rapidly. Here are some tips to cut your los…
April 27, 2022