Each of us has responded in our own way to the global coronavirus pandemic and its enormous impact on every aspect of life. Covid’s economic fallout, leaving so many with no cushion after losing their incomes, led Francesca Rose, a junior at Riverdale Country School in New York City, to establish The Financial Literacy Club, a nonprofit that teaches high school students the basics of finance like saving, credit, budgeting and investing.
After the pandemic hit, it became obvious to her that a lot of people in America are financially illiterate, and she believes that is because the basics of handling money are not taught by parents, or in schools. “We are trying to come up with a solution to combat that, geared towards high school students,” Rose says.
Started in January 2021, the club offers Zoom panels and podcasts with experts, educational infographics, plus a newsletter with a variety of high-school-aged columnists specializing in different niches of financial life. They also run highly popular stock simulator competitions, one of which recently offered a $1,000 prize to the winner.
The competitions are fun, and there’s no financial risk. “We built a community around this competition, and all these people who might not have been interested in this stuff before have now grown and learned through the club,” says Rose. The idea is to incentivize students to learn about finances in a fun, educational, and interactive way that appeals to teens.
Rose has always had an interest in the field and was able to learn from her father. “Had I not done my own research, I would not know about a lot of these things; I wouldn’t know what a 401K account is, I wouldn’t know how to do taxes,” she says. “It’s geared towards our age group, as they’re approaching college and ready to take out student loans, and build their credit rating so that they can make quick and educated decisions that are going to greatly impact their future.”
It took some time to assemble the team, but once the site launched, it took off fairly quickly, with over 2,000 page views in the first few days, and engagement has risen steadily. They’re also engaging with readers on social media and via e-mail lists.
There is no fee, anyone interested can simply go to the website, where articles are regularly posted, and the weekly newsletter, the Warrant, reminds subscribers what’s new on the site. (https://financialliteracyclub.org/)
The Financial Literacy Club is unique in its focus, Rose found, since many such clubs are geared towards college students or people already repaying student loans. “There are not many that I found that is easy to comprehend, easy to navigate, and are geared towards high school students as their primary audience,” she says. “That’s too bad because high schoolers are not going to be incentivized to learn about this stuff on their own, they need someone to come and market it to them if they are going to have any interest.”
Future plans include partnering with different high schools to help more students reap the benefits of financial literacy, plus expanding the range of experts on podcasts and Zoom panels at which listeners may ask questions. They’re also planning a merit-based scholarship fund for this upcoming school year, and an e-book that will be donated to schools in underfunded school districts.
“I want to emphasize that the goal of this club is to help empower sustainable and diversified investors,” Rose says. “We want to broaden the range of financially literate individuals in this country, and we think that starts with these kids.”