The Financial Literacy Initiative is a national program created by Matt Brandeburg, CFP® of Bridgeway Financial Group, LLC designed to promote financial literacy among young adults. The Initiative’s mission is to teach young adults how to responsibly manage their money and create stable financial plans. We’re working to break the perpetual cycle of insufficient financial education being taught to young adults who then go on to make serious financial mistakes later in life. By connecting with young adults early, and with the help of our partners, we can break the cycle.
I spoke to Matt Brandeburg about his Financial Literacy Initiative.
YM: Tell me about any activities you are doing.
MB: We’re always involved in about five different activities at any given time. The focus of each activity is to promote and spread financial literacy to young adults.
Recently, we wrote an 8-part financial education series for the Lawrence Funderburke Youth Organization (LFYO), which helps underprivileged youths between the ages of 12 and 21 learn basic money management skills. We also developed case studies and financial planning activities for the young adults who participate in LFYO’s “financial boot camps."
In the summer of 2008, our first project was writing a program called "Your Financial Game Plan" for the Ohio state University football team. The program walked the athletes through cash flow and debt management, investing and insurance.
Today, we’re writing articles that promote financial literacy for some very important organizations that share our vision including Simplifyed.com, The Small Business Advocate Newsletter, LFYO, and Young Money magazine.
In addition to writing and developing curriculum, we also connect one-on-one with young adults across the country through our tutoring and mentoring programs. We currently have a financial planning tutor at Ohio State University and plan to work with more high schools and colleges in 2009. In addition, we’ve helped over 30 young adults enter the financial planning profession by preparing them to take the Certified Financial Planning exam. To date we’ve mentored young adults in 11 states and our goal is to reach all 50 by the end of 2009.
We also host a monthly financial planning discussion via the web and conference call where individuals who cannot afford a full-service financial planner, or those just hoping to learn more, can engage in active discussion. All are invited to attend and we encourage interested participants to contact us through our website at www.bridgeway-financial.com.
Some other areas we’re looking to expand into next year include developing financial how-to guides for companies to distribute to their employees, and writing financial planning curriculum for high schools and youth groups across the country.
These are just a few of the activities we’re participating in and hope to expand into next year, and we’re always looking for more projects. If any individuals or companies would like to learn more information about our services we encourage them to contact us through our website at www.bridgeway-financial.com.
YM: How do you plan on promoting financial literacy?
MB: We promote financial literacy one project at a time and one person at a time. It’s long, tedious work, but we feel like we’re able to really change the lives of the young adults we counsel. We also understand that the groups in our society that currently lack financial literacy may not be able to afford high fees or annual retainers. That is why we ask for sponsors and keep our fees low to accommodate all groups and events. Interested sponsors should visit our website.
YM: Why is this important now?
MB: Financial literacy is more important now than ever before because of the difficult times our economy is facing. Many of the problems in our economy over the past year were caused by irrational selling in the stock market and a credit crunch that was caused by individuals buying more house than they could afford. The first problem was a direct result of fear and a lack of understanding of the business cycle. The second problem was a result of predatory lending that could have been avoided with improved financial literacy. Our program tries to bridge the gap between the market place and the consumer by taking these complex topics and breaking them down into manageable pieces.
We also believe that knowledge is empowering and contagious. By promoting financial literacy and encouraging others to do so, we will help avoid future financial crises and provide peace of mind to many families across the country.
YM: What do we, as a society, need to do to become more financially literate?
MB: We need to start by having mandatory financial education classes being taught at the middle school, high school and college levels. Basic money management also needs to be included on all standardized tests. Some forward thinking schools are already introducing financial planning classes in their curriculum, but most aren’t due to a lack of funding and an absence of suitable teaching materials. That’s where our Financial Literacy Initiative comes in. Our Initiative takes the stance that schools and youth organizations can no longer use the excuse that financial literacy is too expensive or too hard to provide, because we can develop custom tailored curriculum and educational materials at a very affordable price.
YM: What can parents do to help their kids become more financially literate?
MB: Parents need to have open dialogue with their children about money and not be afraid to discuss their personal finances open and honestly. There’s not enough discussion between parents and their children about financial matters and that sets a bad example. We encourage parents to sit down with their children and explain their family’s finances and involve them in all major financial decisions. Learning that there is a finite pool of money that all bills must be paid from is an important lesson that can never be learned too early.