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Financial education for young people – is it working?

Dennis Duquette

Posted on May 28, 2019

Dennis Duquette is MassMutual's head of community responsibility and president of the MassMutual Foundation.
Caucasian child with a miner's headlamp reading under the covers

For decades, many financial services companies, public agencies, school districts, and nonprofit organizations have been working to deliver meaningful financial education to students of all ages, but with varying degrees of success. The Jump$tart Coalition, the Rand Corporation, and many other concerns have been measuring student financial aptitude for much of that time and have found that for many years, student performance in matters of financial literacy have been largely stagnant.

Only recently have the experts begun to see incremental progress.

So what does that mean for practitioners of financial education? Simply put, it’s not enough to build and deliver financial education tools for students — results matter. It’s critical that we review and measure the impact these programs are having on the students, their teachers, and their families.

It’s not enough to know if a student’s post-curriculum knowledge gain is positive; it’s also important to understand the long-term implications of the training on a student’s behavior. To that end, a consistent focus on measuring results can and will help educators deliver financial education programs that have a real impact on students’ lives.

At MassMutual, we take great pride in our proprietary financial literacy program, FutureSmart. (Read more about FutureSmart)

Since its inception in 2015, FutureSmart Digital has reached just over 1.5 million students across all 50 states, and we’re on track to meet or exceed our goal of reaching 2 million students by the end of 2020.

It is a huge endeavor. And we want to make sure it’s working. So we have embarked on an ambitious measurement exercise to ascertain the knowledge gains and long-term behavioral impact on students who complete the FutureSmart program.

This two-year study, which we are doing in conjunction with our partner EverFi, is being conducted by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst . The sample consists of more than 20,000 students from nearly 1,300 schools across the United States.

The findings, so far, have been positive.

We know that short-term knowledge gains for students completing FutureSmart are real and significant. Particularly encouraging is the finding that these knowledge gains were consistent across socioeconomic backgrounds and curriculum placement — e.g. via a math course or social sciences course — as well as racial, ethnic, and linguistic groupings.

In the next phase of the study, we’ll examine more of the long-term impacts of the program and will issue a report of our findings.

The study and its outcomes will help inform how we evolve FutureSmart to be an even more valuable financial education tool for students and their families going forward. Furthermore, we look forward to sharing our findings with other funders and providers of financial education in a national conversation on this very important matter for America’s youth.

Check out one of our FutureSmart events ...


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