EAST GREENWICH — It’s not very often that a person who advises the President of the United States of his finances gets to speak to high-school students, much ado to their hectic schedule.
Therefore, it was a treat for Ted Beck, the Advisory Council on Financial Capability to President Barack Obama, to be in front of a small collection of finance students at East Greenwich High School on Monday talking to them about the importance of being financially stable in an economy that is anything but stable.
“We are truly honored to have him here to be able to talk about something that is truly relevant,” said Patricia Page, a business educator at East Greenwich High School. “I don’t think there is anything more timely and relevant than what is going on with personal finance in economics.”
Beck – who is also the national chairman of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy and the CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education – was a guest of the R.I. Jump$tart Coalition, which is in its eighth year of advocacy for youth personal financial capability within the state. Beck visited East Greenwich High on Monday to honor a quartet of students that earned perfection in an exam that is part of a federal finance program.
Brandon Sticca, Christina Lusi, Caitlyn Mason and Macklin Glennon were four students out of nine throughout Rhode Island to record a perfect score on the National Financial Capability Challenge, which is a program put together by both the U.S. Department of Treasury and Department of Education that tests students across the country for their knowledge regarding personal finance.
When the program was first implemented five years ago, the intent was for the average score to be 60 and that a top score was considered a tremendous and rare accomplishment.
“In other words, it’s a tough test,” Beck said. “So to get four perfect scores in one school, it’s pretty impressive. That means they’re taking it seriously and they’re getting good teachers.”
During Monday’s presentation, Matt Ngrignari, Matt Cruise, Mat McGreen and Jason Peduto showed an eight-slide report to Beck and members of the East Greenwich School Committee – including Superintendent Victor Mercurio – on lessons that will help improve a person’s personal financial status, lessons that include knowing more about the stock market and avoiding having to pay high interest, such as on a credit card.
When Beck took to the podium for his remarks, which lasted about 15 minutes, he said that the two biggest elements in gaining financial security are to ask lots of questions and have confidence in their investment choices.
“It’s good to hear from someone who obviously has so much experience,” Lusi said. “It’s also good to know that people are putting in programs to educate kids about finances and the stock market.”
Beck, in his brief speech, also emphasized the critical nature of student debts across the country. He made one mention about a college in New York where some students accumulated so much debt, either through credit cards or other means, that they weren’t eligible for job interviews in their fields of study following graduations.
It’s a subject that the students in attendance on Monday took to heart and plan on improving once it comes time to move on to college life.
“I feel like I have an understanding of the basic concepts, but talking to people that are seasoned in investing are important,” Sticca said. “It will definitely benefit me because I ask more questions about that and be more financially stable for myself.”
Beck added that one of the greatest challenges in the country today is that this will be the first generation that will be “truly flying solo,” not having traditional pensions to support people years down the line and everyone will now have to be responsible for their own plans to get them through retirement.
But, with the educations that students are receiving in their finance classes, plus understanding the financial world that is around them on their own, Beck said that the more people know now what to do, the better their futures will be.
“Time is in their favor,” Beck said. “The quicker they get involved and understand it, the better they will be in accumulating the resources they’ll need in life. The fact that they’re not putting it off is one of the key messages that we should be getting to not just students but to parents, also.”