T.C. Williams students got a lesson in money management from Redskins great Charles Mann Wednesday, but passing an economics and personal finance class soon will be a graduation requirement.
Starting with next years incoming freshman class, students in Alexandria and across the commonwealth will be expected to take and pass a financial literacy course. While the class is required for graduation, students wont see economics or personal finance questions on the states Standards of Learning test.
I think there was a consensus on the [state board of education] that this was a good thing to do, that students need these skills to be successful, said Charles Pyle, spokesman for Virginia Department of Education. Students today do need a foundation in economics and personal finance to function as wise consumers and investors who have the knowledge of how the system works to plan for the future for their future.
The nations top principal, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, made the same point earlier in the week, dropping by the citys sole public high school to announce a new drive to forge partnerships between schools and financial institutions. The goal is to promote financial literacy, he told teachers, parents and students.
A lack of financial literacy is a major roadblock on the path to college access and success for too many students and families, Duncan said Monday.
Mann, joined by Merrill Lynch D.C. branch manager Jeff Wood, took a sweeping look at financial planning. As they prepare for college, students need to start thinking about a long-term financial plan, Wood said.
Not unlike in sports, in finance youve got to have a game plan with specific goals over a long-term horizon, he said. Its less about the specifics and more about the overarching focus on some of the lessons and valuable information having a broader, more thoughtful approach to money.
Mann, a successful football player turned businessman, urged the roughly 20 students many from T.C.s academy of finance to save, diversify, stay content and work hard.
Put it away and see what happens over time. Lets watch it and see how it grows, he said. Dont put all of your eggs in one basket. Dont put everything into one thing, because if it doesnt work, youre sunk.
And while Mann and Wood hope students will walk away with the seeds of a financial roadmap planted in their minds, the Commonwealth wants them to learn the basics: budgeting, consumer savvy and credit.
T.C. already boasts economics classes and a student-run credit union, but Superintendent Morton Sherman expects staff will expand other classes, like math, to fulfill the states mandate. Greater financial awareness could have kept the recession sparked in 2008 at bay, he said.
In hindsight, there is a responsibility to pass onto the next generation that awareness, Sherman said. If were going to thrive we have to take care of our finances and save.
Across town at Carpenters Shelter homeless and underemployed, learn the basics of money management as well. They pull credit scores, start checking or savings accounts and plan for homeownership with their clients, said Lissette Bishins, executive director.
Although financial literacy and money management go hand-in-hand, education and better employment will get us out of the cycle of poverty, she said.
Bishins questions whether money now allocated toward financial literacy at the public schools could be better spent raising test scores. Managing finances comes after education and employment, she said.
We were fortunate to have learned [money management] from our parents and they didnt, Bishins said. Its not just money management, but the whole picture. I wonder how good money management is for a student who is receiving free lunch while their family is unemployed. I dont know.