Answer: Creating a U.S. workforce prepared to lead in a competitive, global marketplace. Question: What is corporate responsibility?
Do you recognize Jeopardy’s Q&A model here? I begin with this phrase for a reason: Jeff Xie, a Jeopardy! Teen Tournament champion from New Jersey, is featured in the inaugural issue of a first-of-its-kind magazine, Your $, that provides educational resources for kids, teachers and parents to teach financial literacy. The teen’s story serves as a lesson about money management (spend, save, or invest); the “if at first you don’t succeed” approach to meeting goals (Xie tried out for the show several times before finally securing a spot); and the importance of hard work (contestants have to study and be knowledgeable to win). The magazine story and related activities focus on how Jeff decides to use his (after-tax) earnings (a trip to Paris and college tuition). Magazine readers will identify with his struggles as well as his dreams.
I’ve chosen the Jeopardy theme here for another reason, as well. I believe that U.S. business is in jeopardy if we do not develop a workforce ready to compete with fast, agile responses to changing global needs and trends. Let’s face it, business is about managing and growing the bottom line. And to do that successfully, we need a workforce prepared to meet the challenges ahead. Yet, more than 46 percent of teens do not know how to create a budget and nearly 50 percent of teens are unsure of how to use a credit card effectively. In fact, 81 percent of college students underestimate the time it will take to pay off student loans, and 93 percent of parents worry that their children will make financial missteps of serious consequence for their economic security, above all, spending beyond their means. Moreover, a majority of parents do not regularly teach their children about managing finances, and a majority of educators say they are not prepared to teach financial literacy. How can kids and young adults who don’t understand money learn to manage it wisely?
Game on. U.S. companies must step up now — or businesses from other countries will step in. To win, we need financial literacy education on everything from personal savings accounts to how the stock market works. Sophisticated remote technologies make it possible for global companies nearly anywhere on the planet to respond expediently to diverse and fast-evolving marketplace demands. The global marketplace is not going to wait for us to catch up if we fall behind. Developing financial literacy in our youth, as early as possible, is a winning strategy. By empowering our children, we will power up American business.
The winners. U.S. CEOs consistently report that they are concerned with the availability of qualified talent. We must develop a diverse workforce equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed as global business leaders and committed, as well, to the development of their own communities. We must educate young people who can calculate risk while simultaneously inspiring new thinking.
The players. From budgeting and saving to debt and investing, there is a critical gap in the market around financial literacy education. Students, educators and parents are eager for new tools to teach, learn and share those ever-important money lessons. Yet, teachers have reported that they often feel they lack the materials, access and knowledge necessary to teach personal finance topics. That is why the introduction of unique classroom lessons, real-world simulations, innovative computer programs and even a magazine can help make a difference to empower students to learn and educators to teach important personal finance topics.
We know that classroom tools — no matter how entertaining, educational or useful they are — will not answer all the questions or needs teachers, parents and students have about financial literacy or how to grow a future workforce. But we do know that, one by one, American businesses must invest in programs and collaborations that teach kids about money if we want them to grow up to be business leaders who understand global finance. From fun and games to global markets, from managing monthly expenses to monitoring mega-trends, if we want our kids — and American businesses — to win, business leaders must support innovative efforts to ensure that they’re up to the challenge and can take home the prize.
About the author: Mitch Roschelle is the U.S. National Practice Leader for PwC’s Real Estate Advisory Practice and leads PwC’s Earn Your Future in the New York City area.
TIME For Kids Your $: Financial Literacy for Kids is the first magazine of its kind to take a fun and educational approach to teaching personal finance to fourth, fifth and six-grade students. The magazine, launched as part of the TIME for Kids suite of publications, is edited by Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s Today Show and made possible with the help of the PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc. It is distributed for free to schools across the country, reaching more than 1.8 million students and educators in its first year. The magazine and resources are also available for free online at www.timeforkids.com/extras and www.pwc.com/eyf.