In the still long and painful wake of the global financial crises, financial literacy is more important than ever. To that end, PwC announced a $160 million investment in a youth education program that emphasizes personal finance. The Big 4 firm also pledged that it would recruit as many of its 35,000 U.S. employees as possible to improve American youth’s fiscal competency.
Such a commitment is important because research indicates that as much as 35 percent of American youth do not know how to write a check. True, not many checks are handwritten nowadays (as I painfully learned last week when I had a lunch meeting and forgot my wallet, but not my checkbook: I started at the blank check trying to remember what to do), but the simple act of writing a check is the first step in taking charge of one’s personal finances. With the proliferation of credit cards and online services from Amazon to iTunes and even Etsy, the way to financial hell is paved with easy online shopping and overdraft fees. Lessons about compounding interest are important, but just linking those two words together often causes eyelids to drop.
Despite the obvious need to instill financial responsibility in America’s youth, only 13 U.S. states require financial literacy as a requirement for high school graduation and only one in five teachers feel prepared to teach such a subject. The statistics only worsen as these students get older: 55 percent of college students score their first credit card while they are freshmen and 45 percent then ratchet up debt on the average of $3066 upon graduation. PwC’s Earn Your Future, according to the firm, can help change this disturbing trend.
Earn Your Future seeks to plug the critical gaps of lacking financial literacy among people as well as create training opportunities for teachers. PwC professionals developed 22 financial literacy modules and that curriculum is available for free to teachers and the schools within which they work. The firm established a training program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Knowledge@Wharton High School that will teach its first educators this fall. And in a move that capitalizes on its workforce’s core competencies, PwC will encourage its employees to mentor students.
More programs like that of PwC’s are needed, and the evidence suggests more organizations in the world of finance understand that enhancing financial literacy is the lowest of the hanging fruit on a firm’s corporate social responsibility agenda. For example, Denmark’s Danske Bank launched a financial literacy program aimed at young students. And in the United Arab Emirates, NBAD considers teaching its customers about personal finance one of its core responsibilities. Employees at banks, accounting firms and consultancies that are sorting out what they can do within their communities have the answer in that calculator hiding in their desk drawer and spreadsheet lurking on their desktop.
Logo courtesy PwC.