Mitch Roschelle, Partner and Business Development Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), has spent a lot of time in New York schools. He’s part of PwC’s Earn Your Future initiative, which sends financial educators into schools to train students on best money management practices.
The more time Roschelle works on the initiative the more he realizes how needed it is. He’s found that many young people aren’t learning financial skills at home, and sadly, aren’t always learning them at school.
“We’ve taught the debt lesson thousands of times,” he says, “and I’m still amazed that students don’t understand the basics such as the fact that if you borrow money you have to repay it.” Simple misunderstandings like this can lead to systemic problems as kids reach adulthood — problems such as the financial crisis of 2008.
On a typical day, Roschelle joins 15 trained volunteers and works directly with students at their desks. He has found that when he opens up and admits his own mistakes, the kids open up as well and tell him their stories. One story in particular about a decision to buy some fancy suits with a credit card right out of college stands out.
“I got my first bill and I didn’t have the cash to pay it, and I let it go,” Roschelle says. “When no one came to repossess my suits, I thought ‘maybe they’ll never find me.’” But it did. In fact, it was still on his credit report when he refinanced his home four years ago. It was a hard lesson that he uses to engage students in dialogue on how to avoid the mistake, and then outline ways to develop a strong financial future.
Roschelle has had some great experiences working directly with these young students. One day he met a kid who saw his car in the parking lot and asked if he could sit behind the steering wheel. When Roschelle let him sit in the driver’s seat, the kid told them that he wanted a car like his one day. The kid said, “I’m gonna go to college, become a businessman just like you so I can buy a car like this.” That paved the way for a discussion about how to create a solid financial plan.
In another story, Roschelle was at the Yankee Stadium when he saw a group of kids selling water bottles. One of the kids walked up to Roschelle and said, “I know you. You came to our school and taught us about money.” Then the kid said that he was there because he was doing what Earn Your Future had taught him to do: Work hard to earn money.
Earn Your Future doesn’t just focus on New York schools. Marking the fifth year of the firm’s $190M commitment, PwC’s partners and staff have given over 800,000 service hours and reached 3.5 million students and educators across the country. And the PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc. worked with Time magazine to produce a monthly publication for kids called Your $. This publication has reached 3.5 million people and works to engage students at their level. Topics include how to start a business, how to prevent identity theft, the basics of insurance, where taxes go, and so on.
“When we initially started the project we thought about creating a textbook,” Roschelle said. “However, we didn’t want our work to be intimidating or boring. So we decided the best way into the classroom was creating short, fun pieces of content.”
The magazine also implicitly gives educators good ideas for how they might teach students about sound financial principles.
In addition, Earn Your Future has a digital component as well. At its most basic level the digital component consists of printed materials that have been uploaded to the internet. This way teachers can log in and get ready-made lesson plans about finances. Earn Your Future has also created a way for students to access the materials on multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, Smartboard, and more. The Online Assessment Center helps students know where they stand and what they need to do next.
Altogether, Earn Your Future fills a needed gap in financial literacy and paves the way for students to not repeat the mistakes of the past. It’s a simple program that will carry profound benefits for years to come.