PwC has been exploring how tech can advance financial education, partnering with organizations like the Council for Economic Education and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC), to bring innovative solutions to students.

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By Shannon Schuyler, Principal, Chief Purpose Officer, and Responsible Business Leader at PwC; President of PwC Charitable Foundation

Throughout Financial Literacy Month, I have been thinking about the role that technology will play in the lives of our students, including when it comes to managing their finances. PwC has been exploring how tech can advance financial education, partnering with organizations like the Council for Economic Education and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC), to bring innovative solutions to students. As Annamaria Lusardi, founder and academic director of GFLEC, and member of CNBC’s Financial Wellness Council, commented to me: “One in five students lack basic financial literacy skills. These students are already facing consequential financial decisions without a foundation to make informed decisions. However, there is reason to be optimistic. With increasing research in the field, prioritization of this topic in legislation, and new technologies, we can continue to expand financial education and make it more effective.”

Annamaria’s comments made me want to dig deeper, so I sat down with Genein Letford, an award-winning educator who has been instrumental in bringing our Access Your Potential®(AYP) initiative into classrooms. Here are her thoughts on the evolving field of financial literacy education.

Tell me, what is the value of teaching our younger generations about financial literacy?

I believe effective implementation of knowledge is power. With finances, this is even more true. We can’t have the discussion of breaking cycles of poverty and not talk about financial understanding. In order to ensure upward mobility, especially in our most vulnerable demographics, financial education is a must. Money isn’t everything, but managing it effectively is a big part of building strong communities and positioning families to thrive and contribute.

What are the top 3 lessons that you try to instill in your students around this topic?

My top three lessons are:

  • Be aware of your money mindset. My students see how their parents use and relate to money. These behaviors affect how they will treat money in their lives, so the sooner they are aware of them, the better.
  • Understand opportunity cost. What you do today matters tomorrow! My students love using an app that makes them look 65 years old. It helps them picture an older version of themselves who is counting on them to make smart choices about their finances.
  • Harness the power of compounding interest! Einstein called it the 8th wonder of the world and now my students know why. I make sure my students understand how compounding interest can work for them OR against them.

I know you strive to bring creativity into the classroom. What are some ways you’ve made fin lit topics relevant and interesting for your students?

Our belief systems are solidified by the age of 12 so getting students on the right track about their financial future is key during these formative years. My training is in psychology and creativity; I know that I must make sometimes complex and unrelatable topics engaging and fun for my students. I use theatre arts, visual representations, gameplay and even puppetry storytelling to drive these concepts home. I love using Jump$tart, and am excited to use PwC and Junior Achievement’s new college financial planning app to create interactive learning experiences.

You’ve been working with on our initiative, Access Your Potential, to teach technology, digital and financial literacy. What prompted you to get involved, why do you find it so valuable?

PwC’s research drove home that we can’t ignore the current shift in the workforce. As an educator, I’m responsible for giving my students the skills they need to be successful adults, personally and professionally. It is my responsibility to introduce new skills and tech knowledge to bring these tools to my students. AYP is connecting with teachers and students alike to get them thinking about and implementing fun, interactive tech lessons into their classrooms.

As a student of Di Vinci, I believe everything is connected, including financial literacy and technology — which is exactly what AYP recognizes. FinTech is rapidly taking off! In my class, we use apps that gamify financial education. I created an investment game to show the power of investing and the basic concepts of how stocks function, and use apps with my students all the time. With technology, the possibilities are endless.