As financial educators for more than three decades, we have long advocated for financial literacy courses in public schools as well as stronger financial education efforts by parents at home鈥攚here most of us get our first exposure to both good & bad financial habits.

Many young students today may never have a checking account or write a physical check, but we believe they still need to understand the basics of a paycheck, deductions & tax withholdings. They also need to learn how to create a spending plan (budget) and the fundamentals of saving and investing. They need to understand the role of interest rates and impact of inflation, the basics of credit and debt management, and how to manage different types of risk.

When we started the LIFE Youth Savings & Investment Club (YIC) nearly 20 years ago, the focus was primarily on introducing kids to the power of investing in the stock market. What became apparent early on was that we needed to step back and teach the financial basics鈥攆inancial mindset, financial values, and budgeting. We have come to believe that the lessons on those first two topics鈥擬INDSET and VALUES may have the largest influence on healthy financial decision-making and ultimately on financial stability and wealth creation.

Our YIC budgeting exercise is always a favorite interactive activity, helping students learn to make spending tradeoffs between basic provisions and splurges. We know they are internalizing the info when we invariably hear at least one kid say after struggling with their budgets, 鈥渟o when our parents say they don鈥檛 have any money, they really mean it.鈥

As college debt and contract work has increased significantly in recent years, we added education on college funding & entrepreneurship. Students and their parents need to be better educated on the pitfalls of 鈥渢oo much college debt.鈥 Just like too much high interest credit card debt, excess college debt can be a huge invisible constraint to wealth creation.

This initiative focuses on young first-time summer workers from low-income households to encourage workplace saving. Research shows that this group of youth are less experienced regarding personal finance and are less likely to save any of their earnings.

LIFE has educated more than 5,000 youth and implemented various educational formats over the years including webinars, multi-session workshops and intensive one-day financial bootcamps.

This year marks 20 years that LIFE has provided financial literacy to students and adults primarily in low-to-moderate income, communities of color. We look forward to continuing to lead in financial education for students, parents, and employers over the next 20 years.

Robert P. Kinzer is LIFE president. He retired from the FDIC in 2017, is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, and has more than 40 years of financial education experience. Ms. Evans-Motte is LIFE vice president. She is an investment adviser with a Fortune 500 financial firm and has been a financial educator for more than 30 years. You can contact them at or 301-327-1632.

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