The Wise Cracks Blog by Dan Otter

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Education
Advocacy

A Weekend to Sing About

My podcast partner Scott Dauenhauer and I were lucky participants (and presenters) at the recent Next Gen Personal Finance Changemaker Summit in San Francisco, California. NGPF is an innovative non-profit that creates and makes available — at no cost — superb financial education curriculum. The brainchild of Tim Ranzetta and Jessica Endlich, the organization has a mission to “revolutionize the teaching of personal finance in all schools and to improve the financial lives of the next generation of Americans.”

The event brought together 100 of the best personal finance teachers in the country. These “changemakers” hailed from 37 states. What truly made the event unique, indeed revolutionary, was how NGPF views teachers. They treat them as the professionals that they are. NGPF respects and values their professional knowledge. They understand the enormous number of challenges teachers face delivering any curriculum let alone financial education. NGPF shows this in so many ways. Not the least of which was providing accommodations, meals, and some great entertainment for the weekend. As a former public school teacher, I am here to tell you that few organizations do this for K-12 teachers. Corporate America does this for its own. The financial service industry does this for its own (often funded by exorbitant fees). Teachers typically have to beg, borrow, and pay their own way in order to participate in professional development opportunities. Not at this event. 

This weekend was not a one-off occurrence. NGPF provides more professional development opportunities for personal finance educators than any other organization in the country. Emboldened by educators, NGPF has set a community goal that by 2030 all students will be guaranteed access to a one-semester standalone personal finance course before they graduate. Let me repeat this goal: By 2030 all students will be guaranteed access to a one-semester standalone personal finance course before they graduate.

 

Writer Jonathan Clements, of HumbleDollar, addresses teachers.

 

The weekend consisted of a series of workshops on best financial education teaching practices, many led by teachers. Attendees were also treated to workshops put on by two of my favorite financial writers and thinkers: former Wall Street Journal personal finance columnist, Jonathan Clements of Humbledollar, and former neurologist, financial theorist, and author Bill Bernstein. BTW: Mr. Bernstein is not only the author of the The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for a Winning Portfolio, he wrote the forward to Teach and Retire RichTeachers got to, and were encouraged to rub elbows with these titans of financial wisdom.

Scott and I got to do what we love to do: put on a session about the 403(b). Many of these financially savvy educators were surprised and even angry at what we told them: many of them were being ripped off in their 403(b) plans. We are pretty certain that these changemakers will be returning to their employers to make changes to their own and their district’s 403(b) plans. Said one attendee after our presentation: "My 403(b) sucks and I need to make changes." Hell hath no fury like a financial education teacher exploited by the financial industry. Buckle up human resource folks, a storm is coming your way.

 

View from the trolley.

 

On Saturday evening NGPF rented trolleys and gave teachers a very San Francisco tour of San Fransisco before dropping us all off for dinner at an old Firehouse on the waterfront at Fort Mason. Following dinner we returned to the hotel where a karaoke machine awaited. While I am happy to sing the problems of the 403(b), I am not much of a crooner. My family recoils when I sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the start of televised Liverpool football matches. But if I was to sing publicly at an NGPF event it would be to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and it would go something like this:

Just a small town teacher
Living in a lonely 403(b) world
She took the annuity train
Going nowhere

Just a city teacher
Born and raised in south Detroit
He took the annuity train
Going nowhere

A salesman in a teacher’s room
The smell of pizza and cheap donuts
For a smile he can hook ‘em on high fees
That go on an on and on and on

Strangers waiting
Up and down the staff lounges
Their shadows searching in the florescent lights
Fiduciary people they are not
Living just to find commission
Hiding somewhere in the paperwork

Working hard to get their fill
But teachers pay the bill
Doing anything to make that sale
Just one more time

Some teachers will win, most will lose
When they find out, they will sing the blues
Oh, the story never ends
It goes on and on and on

Strangers waiting
Up and down the staff lounges
Their shadows searching in the florescent lights
Not fiduciary people
Living just to find commission
Hiding somewhere in the paperwork

Don’t stop 403(b)elievin’
Hold on to that feeling
Sunlight is needed, people
Ohohohhhhhhhhhh
Don’t stop 403(b)elievin’
Hold on
Sunlight is coming, people
Ohohohhhhhhhhhh
Don’t stop 403(b)elievin’
Hold on to that feeling
Change is coming, people
Ohohohhhhhhhhhh