Utah 4-H And Fidelity Investments Partner To Fight Low Financial Literacy

May 13, 2014

A global financial services corporation is providing Utah teens with the opportunity to learn financial management skill and engage in statewide community service.

On May 10, Utah 4-H students from across the state received financial management training preparing them to teach peers in their own communities.
Credit Taylor Halversen

Last year, Fidelity Investments sent out a grant request aimed at engaging teens with financial planning and combating low financial literacy rates for high school students and other school-age kids.

There were 73 applicants for the grant nationally, but Utah 4-H, an extension project of Utah State University, received the grant as a result of their Teens Reaching Youth program, which reaches both urban and rural communities throughout the state.

Kris Liacopoulos, general manager for Salt Lake region of Fidelity Investments says there is power in the model, with teens teaching other teens.

“They’ve exhibited some great results along other types of life skills, and so we felt like it’s a perfect model to actually engage teens, teen leaders, to then teach their peers and see if we can get more traction along financial literacy concepts with youth,” said Liacopoulos.

“What we’re very interested in with teens is that, that’s when money really becomes relevant—their independence with money. So, helping them understand the power of even saving that dollar out of ten dollars and how that can enable something that they want in the future is really important, but we’ve found that because it’s relevant, it has more impact right now,” said Liacopoulos.

Each TRY Team, composed of two to four teen leaders and an adult coach, will use their financial knowledge acquired at the Fidelity trainings and teaching skills acquired through the 4-H program to share the messages with other youth in their communities.  Dave Francis with Utah 4-H says kids are receptive to new messages and can be agents for change within their communities.

“They’re going to go back as now trained leaders and go back to their community, identify another group—typically this is going to be middle school or for this curriculum it sometimes will go into elementary school—and they’ll deliver this curriculum that they’ve taught,” said Francis. “What we feel is strong about is this idea is if you participate and actively teach it, your retention and your engagement with a topic is going to deepen versus just being a participant in a class; we’re not ending it here.”

Saturday, the 63 youth chosen for the program gathered at the Salt Lake Fidelity location to participate in curriculum training. The students rotated through different workshops with Fidelity employees teaching various financial concepts.

Francis says the program is crafted to alter knowledge, skills and eventually overall attitude towards finance.

Students with the TRY teams program learned financial literacy activities to teach youth in their community.
Credit Taylor Halversen

“The last lesson which I think is important is a message about investing in themselves and this idea of ‘How do you as a kid increase your human capital and make it so that your earning potential will go up?’ Whether that be attending post-secondary college or a trade school, what are they going to do to increase their human capital?”

Each TRY team group gets to choose how they will reach out to new groups of youth over the summer, and different teams have chosen various target groups and teaching situations, from elementary after school programs to high school classes.

The training also includes the “scratch” program which allows the students to learn coding principles and develop their own game to encourage youth to practice good money management principles. 16-year-old Madison Adamson says the program has helped her in her goals and hopes her game will be able to help others understand financial management.

“We’re supposed to make a game that helps with the financial literacy, kind of to teach them about it. And so they can play it and kind of get ‘Oh, I need to save this money up to get this’,” said Adamson. “So I’m hoping that I design a game that will help them kind of really remember that when they get older because they’re going to need it.”

Students involved in the program say the program has already impacted their understanding of financial literacy.

“I really liked how we got to know each other and ourselves with our own money habits and got to see how we truly are with our own money,” said Luis Pineda.

“I feel pretty confident right now because I know the difference between wants and needs and I’ve been able to understand savings accounts, checking accounts,” said Richard Witworth.

Liacopoulos says that if this pilot program is successful, Fidelity would like to take the model to other groups outside the state. They hope to reach over 220 youth statewide by the end of the summer.