Insights from Micah Hocquard (educator and Banqer co-founder)

Personal Finance is becoming a big thing in America. Much more so than New Zealand. Being a teacher who is exceptionally keen on further developing financial literacy within the New Zealand education system I was fortunate enough to attend the Jump$tart National Educators Conference 2015 earlier this month in Washington, D.C.

Jump$tart is a non-profit organisation that has been going for around 20 years. Over the last 7 years they have also run conferences to help up-skill and provide professional development for teachers throughout the USA. As a New Zealander, it was a very rewarding experience to participate in this year’s conference. Even though our educational systems are different, there are a number of similarities. The teachers are always striving to help students achieve their full potential, we both have curriculums that help to guide teaching and learning experiences, and there also is the common goal to help support other educators.

When Kendall and I arrived at the venue, we were warmly welcomed by the Jump$tart staff and were quickly quizzed about where we came from. Everyone was astonished that we’d travelled for almost two days to attend the conference. Even though we were a little tired from our travels, Kendall and I could not wait to get stuck into learning more about personal finance in America. I attended a teacher feedback session where we discussed a number of topics around financial literacy such as teaching students about interest and insurances. For me it was a brief and very valuable introduction to the American education system. That evening there were welcome drinks and a dinner. The dinner was fantastic as we heard from a number of speakers and representatives from Jump$tart as well as a very entertaining talk from Colin Ryan, a standup comedian and financial spokesperson. His take on the topic was illuminating, inspiring and also very funny.

The first day started with a breakfast and a bit of chatting with the other teachers and attendees from around America. It was clear to see that everyone was enthusiastic and looking forward to sharing ideas and learning how to better improve their students understanding of personal finance. We had some more whole group discussions before breaking out into smaller sessions for specific topics. My first break-out session was called Hands on Banking and looked at the “Hands on Banking” online resource. I found this to be very useful in helping to develop a number of financial concepts. Through the use of online games and resources, individuals from kids to senior citizens could all learn vital money management skills. We also touched on saving for College, which is a very big thing in America.

My second session was called FoolProof Real Financial Education for Your Classroom. Once again this looked at another online resource aimed at giving students more understanding of how to manage their personal finances. This was achieved through the use of short videos, online modules and quizzes. It was an effective way for teachers to manage and support their students diverse range of knowledge and abilities as it catered for each student individually.

We then gathered together again for lunch and another guest speaker. Afterwards, we broke out into our third and final session. My last break-out session was focused on NEFE’s High School Financial Planning Program. This was aimed at developing high school students and their understanding of a number of financial literacy concepts. The course gave free resources to teachers either online or via the post. These resources were detailed and gave a large amount of information for teachers to help impart money management skills for life.

Later that afternoon there was a wealth of knowledge, resources, chocolate and free stuff available in the exhibitors hall. As we all know, teachers love free things so the room was a hive of activity. It also gave Kendall and I the chance to talk to some of the exhibitors.

The next day was the conclusion to the conference. We heard from some more guest speakers who introduced some thought-provoking ideas such as what will classrooms look like in 15 years and how will this impact on our teaching. A representative from FINRA discussed the current state of financial literacy and shared the results of a longitudinal study into the impact of teaching personal finance. In short, the study indicated that explicitly teaching students about personal finance has a positive effect and beneficial outcomes on their ability to manage money better later on in life.

Thank you to all of the wonderful educators, exhibitors and Jump$tart officials for making my time in America so memorable and for sharing all of your ideas and enthusiasm for teaching students about finance. Financial Literacy and understanding how to make money work for you is so important. I believe it is something that every student needs to be introduced to and the earlier they start the better. If we as educators can find time to teach students about personal finance I think we would see a generation of money conscious and savvy individuals who are financially healthy and on a pathway to have more freedom and choice later on in life.