Executive Perspective: Why Financial Literacy Matters

A YouthQuest student counts back change during a YQ Biz event.
By Dr. Kimberly Leverette

April marks Financial Literacy Month. Moving into the month, I want to recognize the importance of preparing students for the future through teaching financial literacy.

In a survey of 15-year-old students shared on Youth.gov, 18 percent had not yet learned fundamental financial skills including building a simple budget, comparison shopping or understanding an invoice. At the same time, only 30 percent of adults in the US have a long-term financial plan according to SpendMeNot.com.

If we want to address that gap in knowledge, we need to do so at a young age. The sooner we can encourage students to learn financial literacy, the better those tools will translate into their adult lives.

At Flint & Genesee Education & Talent, our aim is to prepare students for their future through programs such as YouthQuest, TeenQuest, Summer Youth Initiative and Flint Promise. Through these programs, we embed lessons in financial literacy to ensure that students have the tools they need when they transition into adulthood.

For example, in YouthQuest, students learn about financial literacy in a few ways. One way is by earning YQ Bucks, which are given to students for attendance, positive behavior and completion of homework. In the past, students have used YQ Bucks at special events throughout the year. This year, students can use YQ Bucks as part of the YQ Biz program to purchase products produced by students.

Older students in YouthQuest are exposed to financial literacy through the middle school and high school YQ Biz clubs. Students have the opportunity to build a business, compete in pitch competitions and sell real products they create during market days at the Flint Farmers’ Market. Through that club, which is part of a larger program operated by Genesee County Intermediate School District, students learn how to manage money in their business and discuss how they will spend or reinvest their profits.

In TeenQuest, students are exposed to financial literacy in lessons that relate to opening a bank account and receiving their first paycheck. Through Summer Youth Initiative, students have the chance to work during the summer – perhaps at their first job – and earn a paycheck while learning new skills.

For Flint Promise students, elements of financial literacy are reinforced throughout. Working with Flint Promise Success Coaches, students learn how to spend money responsibly on textbooks and school supplies they need. They are also given resources based on their needs.

In order to have successful adults, we must support our students and teach them the skills they will need in the future. And financial literacy is an important skill to have. Reinforcing these lessons throughout our programs ensures that students are better equipped for their future.