We Taught Finance to 300 Middle Schoolers — Here’s What Happened

“Don’t grow up so fast.” If you had a nickel for every time you heard that expression throughout your childhood, you would have probably amassed quite the nest egg come adulthood. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Your life was probably much simpler back then; worries were small, mistakes less serious.

If you knew then what you know now, would your path be different?

We found ourselves asking the same question last month, when we partnered with Money Smart Week® to host a financial literacy workshop for students of Chicago’s Walt Disney Magnet School — 300 students, to be exact. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Looking out at the sea of young faces, we were overcome with a sense of fulfillment, realizing that we had the opportunity to provide the students with a valuable gift that we wish we had at their age: financial education and responsibility.

Though “Smart Teens, Smart Money” wasn’t our first crack at educating youngsters about the basics of finance — we partnered with Money Smart Week to host a similar workshop last year — we still walked away from the session with a different perspective, and of course, lessons learned. And the students? They left armed with new financial knowledge as well, which they put to the test as part of an exclusive contest (we’ll get to that below!).

51% of young adults agree that having a high-school course in money management would benefit their personal lives the most, compared to other subjects.1

Here are a few of the tried-and-true financial principles that bear repeating:

1. Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket. Evidence shows that maintaining a well-diversified investment portfolio often leads to a more rewarding, long-term investment experience — whether you’re spreading your risk across markets or three mock companies, like the students who participated in our workshop.

2. Set savings goals — and stick with them. Say it with us: discipline, discipline, discipline. Regardless of your age or stage in life, toeing the line between spending versus saving can be a constant struggle. But sacrificing that daily latte for your dream retirement — or the latest game system — will be more than worth it in the long run.

3. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Have you ever logged into your retirement account and become frustrated by the seemingly low balance? We’ve all fallen into the trap of feeling discouraged when our investments or savings don’t produce quick results. But it’s important to maintain perspective and remember that investing is a long-term endeavor. Patience, focus and perseverance, even in the face of market volatility, are necessary to reach the finish line.

We hoped that these simple, yet poignant lessons would remain with the students we met well after our presentation was over. So we decided to serve up a challenge: using the platform of their choice (be it a presentation, video or piece of art), the student who best described the principles learned in our “Smart Teens, Smart Money” session would receive the ultimate prize: a pizza party and games for their classroom. And only one student came out on top!

Click here to see the award-winning submission!

Congratulations to our lucky winner! And most of all, thank you to those who participated in the contest and attended our workshop — we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

See how we’re supporting financial literacy in our communities.


Wipfli Financial Advisors, LLC (“Wipfli Financial”) is an investment advisor registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); however, such registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training and no inference to the contrary should be made. Wipfli Financial is a proud affiliate of Wipfli LLP, a national accounting and consulting firm. Information pertaining to Wipfli Financial’s management, operations, services, fees and conflicts of interest is set forth in Wipfli Financial’s current Form ADV Part 2A brochure and Form CRS, copies of which are available from Wipfli Financial upon request at no cost or at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov. Wipfli Financial does not provide tax, accounting or legal services. The views expressed by the author are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Wipfli Financial or its affiliates. The information contained in any third-party resource cited herein is not owned or controlled by Wipfli Financial, and Wipfli Financial does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of any information that may be found in such resources. Links to any third-party resource are provided as a courtesy for reference only and are not intended to be, and do not act as, an endorsement by Wipfli Financial of the third party or any of its content or use of its content. The standard information provided in this blog is for general purposes only and should not be construed as, or used as a substitute for, financial, investment or other professional advice. If you have questions regarding your financial situation, you should consult your financial planner, investment advisor, attorney or other professional.
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We Taught Finance to 300 Middle Schoolers — Here’s What Happened

time to read: 2 min