Richard M. Todd - Vice President, Community Development
Published May 1, 2006 | May 2006 issue
The Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, an 11-year-old organization that promotes personal financial education for young adults, recently organized a series of events to mark last April as national Financial Literacy Month. Festivities included an April 5 press conference at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C., to announce results of Jump$tart's fifth biennial survey of high school seniors' personal finance knowledge. (See the sidebar below for key survey findings.)
Jump$tart's survey results and press conference focused national attention on the state of personal financial knowledge and education in the United States. However, much of Jump$tart's work is conducted locally, through its state affiliates. From that perspective, Jump$tart is prospering in the Ninth Federal Reserve District, where active affiliates in five of our six states have achieved notable successes or are making important progress toward promoting financial literacy. (Readers with an interest in launching a Jump$tart affiliate in the remaining state, North Dakota, are encouraged to contact Nancy Brown, Jump$tart's Western states coalition director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-473-8278.)
A summary of the news from the District's five Jump$tart affiliates follows. Web pages and contact information for each affiliate are available via the "State Coalitions" link at www.jumpstart.org.
Michigan Jump$tart was organized under the umbrella of national Jump$tart in 2000 and formally became an affiliate in 2004. It lists 25 financial, business, nonprofit, and government organizations as partners in its efforts. Among them is the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Sheila McKean of the Branch's Community Partnering Department serves as secretary of Michigan Jump$tart's board of directors, under Chair Erica Tobe, a Michigan State University Extension Service program leader. Last November, they helped Michigan Jump$tart hold an education conference for 120 teachers and other professionals at the Detroit Branch.
Minnesota has a longstanding Jump$tart affiliate that is in the process of reorganizing. In mid-2005, Jump$tart Midwestern and Eastern States Coalition Director William Cheeks helped convene a local steering committee and charged members (including this author) with reviving the Minnesota affiliate. As a result, a new board and officers are expected to be in place later this spring, with member meetings and a full range of activities to follow later in the year.
A Montana Jump$tart affiliate, the Montana Financial Education Coalition (MFEC), was launched in 2004 under the leadership of Sue Woodrow, who serves as Community Affairs senior project director at the Helena Branch of the Minneapolis Fed. The MFEC doesn't limit its scope to young adults; instead, it seeks to address concerns about "youth, adults [and] seniors learning how to handle money successfully." That's an ambitious agenda for a young organization, but Jump$tart Western States Coalition Director Nancy Brown notes, "The Montana coalition has the stability, sustainability and due diligence we want all our coalitions to have." (For more information on MFEC's formation and mission, see "Montana Financial Education Coalition gains momentum" in Community Dividend Issue 2, 2004.)
MFEC spreads its message through many channels. It organized statewide financial education conferences in November of 2004 and 2005. It provides public speakers, educates state legislators and publishes a quarterly newsletter. One of MFEC's 2006 goals is to develop an online directory of Montana financial education resources that is searchable by county and topic.
South Dakota is officially the newest Jump$tart member state in the Ninth District, having formally established an affiliate in early 2006. The affiliate already has dozens of institutional and individual members. National Jump$tart's Brown is "thrilled" with what the new affiliate has accomplished in a short time.
"I'm especially pleased by their work to make the coalition a true statewide effort," she says.
Videoconferencing is one way the South Dakota coalition plans to reach across its large territory; its full membership meeting on March 16 was conducted from multiple videoconference sites instead of a single location because heavy snow was in the forecast. Dr. Liz Gorham, a South Dakota State University Extension family resource management specialist, serves as South Dakota Jump$tart's president.
To celebrate its tenth annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in April 2005, national Jump$tart inaugurated the State Coalition of the Year award. The first winner was Jump$tart's Wisconsin affiliate, cited for "making the greatest contribution to promoting financial literacy." A specific achievement cited was the development of the National Institute of Financial and Economic Literacy (NIFEL), a financial literacy training program for educators that the U.S. Department of the Treasury called a "recognized best practice for teacher training." NIFEL features three unique, one-week teacher-training courses each year and accepts participants from other states. Wisconsin Jump$tart projects that 30,000 students will receive financial education from teachers who are trained at the institute.
The Wisconsin affiliate, which was organized in 1999, has supported a dozen Money Conferences in partnership with Asset Builders of America, Incorporated. The events are described as "one-day financial education programs for families and youth held in four Wisconsin communities and reaching nearly 3,200 people." The affiliate works closely with Wisconsin's state government in promoting financial education. David Mancl of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions serves as the affiliate's president.
Twelfth graders' financial literacy holds steady, Jump$tart survey finds
The financial literacy of high school seniors in the U.S. is largely unchanged from two years ago, according to a biennial survey conducted by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy (Jump$tart) and funded by Merrill Lynch.
From late 2005 through early 2006, Jump$tart surveyed nearly 5,800 twelfth graders in 37 states—a significant increase over the previous survey in 2004, when 4,000 students in 33 states participated. In order to test the financial literacy of the general student population, the survey was conducted in core classes like English and social studies instead of financial management courses.
The survey included a personal finance examination, consisting of 30 multiple-choice questions on topics such as income, credit, investments, saving and spending; and a series of 21 additional questions about students' socioeconomic backgrounds, financial attitudes and money management habits.
On average, students answered 52.4 percent of the exam questions correctly. The score is a slight, but not statistically significant, increase over the 2004 survey's average score of 52.3 percent. White students had an average score of 55 percent, while Hispanic and African American students' average scores were considerably lower, at 46.8 percent and 44.7 percent, respectively. Nearly 17 percent of respondents indicated they have completed a course in money management or personal finance, down from 20.1 percent in 2004. More than half classified themselves as "somewhat thrifty" or "very thrifty" and nearly 80 percent reported having a savings or checking account.To access the survey, visit www.jumpstart.org and click on "Downloads."