Financial lessons learned well in childhood tend to sustain themselves into adulthood, and corporate foundations that do asset building and financial education work are growing more attuned to the need to start financial education earlier in a child’s life.
Add to this picture the Great Recession and the resulting increase in financial struggles of most Americans. These factors have helped galvanize a steady flow of funding from banks and other financial service corporations to fund financial literacy. In particular, financial literacy for children is getting more attention than ever.
A prime example: Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC). One of the “Big Four” auditing firms and the world’s second largest professional services network, PwC has been providing grants and educational tools for children to develop financial skills since 2012 with its Earn Your Future program.
PwC’s Earn Your Future zeroes in on two goals: Helping children and young adults develop critical financial skills, and providing resources for educators and training them to teach financial literacy skills. In the United States, PwC has 45,000 volunteers putting in time and professional skills on this project, and since 2012, estimates that they have given more than 700,000 hours of time to youth through active and retired partners and staff.
They also estimate additional support to youth-related causes at more than $69 million. To date, the firm has reached an estimated 1.5 million students and educators. Adding to the momentum, PwC and its Foundation recently increased their commitment to Earn Your Future by adding another $30 million to fund this work.
The new $30 million, added in April of 2015, is aimed at supporting new research, expanded professional development opportunities for educators, and greater reach to organizations that are contributing significantly to financial literacy. For example, classroom educators can apply for up to $1,500 in Donorschoose.org gift codes through the Earn Your Future program to provide financial literacy education in the classroom.
Another way PwC is bolstering children’s financial skills is by supporting the publication of a magazine called Your $, which is being distributed monthly during the school year to about two million students in the nation’s schools. Each four-page issue will delve into an aspect of finance, like budgeting, investing, taxes, and even identity theft.
Why do financial services companies take such a strong interest in kids and finances? Some of this investment is about brand recognition, to be sure, and getting kids comfortable with names like Capital One, Wells Fargo, and even PwC, since services like tax preparation and auditing are part of what kids are being taught early.
But financial services companies are also expanding their interest in this field as they realize the value of giving kids a head start on financial management. With the added challenges to the economy since the Great Recession, the stakes are high for today’s young people, and financial missteps can result in reduced credits scores and other negatives that limit opportunity.
Recent grantees from PwC’s Earn Your Future commitment include Covenant Preparatory School and Grace Academy, two middle schools for underserved families in Hartford, Conn. The schools received $50,000 in December 2014 and will use the money for a host of initiatives including mentoring and teaching financial literacy.
Another recent big winner of support from the PwC Charitable Foundation is the MIND Research Institute, which received $3.2 million in grant funds for the development of an innovative financial literacy curriculum.
The MIND Research Institute is widely heralded for creating a one-of-a-kind, non-language-based approach to teaching math. MIND Institute’s Spatial-Temporal (ST Math) curriculum is getting lots of props for significantly raising math scores in schools that use it. MIND’s programs also teach a broad array of problem-solving skills including developing perseverance and financial aptitude.
MIND is using the PwC Foundation grant to create a curriculum centered on saving, investing, credit, debt, home buying, and general money management. The program MIND is rolling out will be game-based and will target students in grades six to eight.
All this action from PwC is evidence of a fast-growing sector for schools and educational products focused on advancing financial literacy for youth.
And one more way PwC is getting in the corner of young people and their financial struggles: the corporation recently announced a new employee benefit to help pay down student loans. This landmark benefit will pay $1,200 per year for associates and senior associates for up to six years to help pay down their college loans. This assistance could equate to up to $10,000 in student debt payment, or about a third of a typical student’s total loan.
PwC is a first mover in providing a student loan pay-down benefit at this scale, another important piece of the puzzle for young adults and young families with financial struggles. Let’s hope other big employers consider doing the same.
To inquire about current grants and opportunities, contact the PwC Foundation here.