National Financial Capability Challenge

Today is the first day of the 2011 National Financial Capability Challenge! Check out this video message from Secretary Duncan encouraging high school teachers to sign up their students to participate. See the press release. Read a blog post by a high school business teacher.

If we teach students about money while they’re young, they’ll be in better financial shape in the future. We’re hoping the Challenge will encourage state and local leaders to weave financial education into schools—starting even earlier than high school—so students are ready to make important financial decisions when they need to.

Phil Martin
Office of the Secretary

Click here for an accessible version of the video.

Empowering Youth, Meeting the Challenge

Cross-posted from the Treasury Notes Blog.

As an English teacher in an inner-city Los Angeles community for seven years, I have seen the importance of empowering young people with the skills they need to build a foundation for long-term financial security.

Knowledge is power.  And in the case of the National Financial Capability Challenge, knowledge about money is a powerful tool to help equip students to take control of their financial futures.

The Challenge, which is administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Department of Education, includes a voluntary online exam with awards for top-scoring students. It is designed to help teach young Americans to make smart decisions about earning, spending, saving, borrowing, and other critical financial skills. To help prepare students for this exam, teachers will have access to a new “educator toolkit” – released today and available here – that includes a wealth of powerful lesson plans.

These lesson plans will help students build a variety of financial skills, such as:

  • Identifying positive and negative spending behaviors
  • Developing a personal budget, including a savings plan and a spending log
  • Opening, monitoring and balancing checking and savings accounts
  • Identifying the costs and benefits of purchasing insurance and investing in higher education
  • Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of using credit
  • Identifying the impact of interest rates and fees on the price of a credit card purchase
  • Identifying methods to minimize the risk of identity theft

Teachers can select lessons from a menu of options and adapt them to fit the unique needs and learning styles of their students, such as adding culturally relevant connections to lessons and creating class projects. Additionally, for the first time, this year’s toolkit will include interactive online lessons and Spanish-language materials.

Last year, more than 76,000 students participated in the National Financial Capability Challenge. And, hopefully, even more will take part this year. Teachers can go to and join the Challenge this spring to help empower their students through financial awareness and education.

Linda Yaron is Teacher Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education

A New Partnership to Promote Financial Education and Savings Programs

Secretary Duncan visited T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, to announce a new partnership to promote financial education and savings.  Participants in the partnership include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the National Credit Union Administration.

Secretary Duncan visited T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, to announce a new partnership to promote financial education and savings.

Yesterday Secretary Duncan visited historic T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, to announce a major new partnership with two other federal agencies: the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which regulates banks and protects deposits in bank accounts, and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), which regulates credit unions and protects deposits in share accounts. The three agencies will work together—and with schools, financial institutions, federal grantees, and other stakeholders—to increase access to safe, affordable, and appropriate deposit accounts at federally-insured banks and credit unions; increase savings; and provide effective financial education.

The day started when Secretary Duncan met with José Cisneros, San Francisco’s Treasurer, who recently launched the “Kindergarten to College” savings program that will provide a college savings account to all students in the public school system. Some years back, Cisneros developed “Bank on San Francisco.” The model has spread to cities across the country and was picked up with the Obama Administration, which recently proposed to create “Bank On USA” with the same goal of providing low-cost deposit accounts and basic financial services to the 25% of American families who don’t currently have regular access to banks or credit unions.

Secretary Duncan then joined FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair and NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz to sign the official interagency agreement that outlines how the agencies will work together before visiting the student-run credit union branch just off the cafeteria. Students from the Academy of Finance who manage the credit union were proud to talk about the work they do and the value of the program in their school. They even gave Secretary Duncan their business cards and encouraged him to open an account!

Upstairs, the press event started with remarks by Alexandria mayor Bill Euille and Jennifer Murphy, a parent participating in the Parent Leadership Training Institute who partners with a local credit union and uses an FDIC financial education program to help the school teach students about managing their money. Later, Euille, Murphy, and the school principal signed a commitment to continue working together on this issue.

Bair, Matz, and Duncan all addressed the audience, which included students from T.C. Williams High School; leaders of banks and credit unions and associations that represent them; education leaders from DC, Maryland, and VA; foundations; and experts in asset development.

Duncan emphasized that this partnership, with its focus on financial literacy and savings for low and moderate income students and families, will help us reach President Obama’s 2020 college completion goal to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Secretary Duncan talked about the lack of financial literacy in this country as a barrier to college access and success, told the audience about research that shows that even low- and moderate-income families can and do save if given access to appropriate accounts and the right incentives, and highlighted work done by Washington University in St. Louis that demonstrates students with a savings account are up to seven times more likely to enter college.

The three agencies have already gotten a jumpstart on implementing the agreement. NCUA has committed funding over the next five years to support partnerships between credit unions and schools; FDIC will soon send a letter to all the banks they regulate encouraging them to develop partnerships; and at the Department of Education, we’ll include a new priority in the 2011 GEAR UP competition to encourage school savings programs in connection with financial education activities. There will be more to come from us, but we’re really hoping that banks, credit unions, schools, federal grantees, local governments, foundations, parent organizations, and others will take the initiative to come together in their states, cities, and towns to develop partnerships that increase access to deposit accounts, savings, and financial literacy, especially among low- and moderate-income students and families.

In the coming weeks, look for more detail on what the agencies will be doing to implement this agreement, including a toolkit for stakeholders who are interested in working together on this important topic. If you have suggestions for youth financial education and savings programs as we’re developing guidance—promising program models, strategies for getting the right people around the table, etc.—feel free to contact me at

Phil Martin
Office of the Secretary

The Future of America: Financial Literacy Education

Cross posted from the White House blog.

Editor’s Note: Aaron Moore earned a perfect score on the National Financial Capability Challenge, an awards program announced in December by Treasury Secretary Geithner and Education Secretary Duncan, designed to promote financial education among high school students across the country.  He has made several speaking engagements and national media appearances discussing the topic of financial literacy and serves as the president of Future Business Leaders of America for the state of Maryland.  He will enter Villanova University in the fall to study Business Administration.

The Future of America: Financial Literacy EducationStudents are given opportunities and choices; I was given an opportunity like no other, to speak at the Treasury Department along side of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. From beginning to end I was engaged, enlightened, and excited. The halls of the Treasury truly represented what it means to be American, full of marble, wood, and gold, the building materials of our founding fathers.

The experience of the day is attributed solely to financial literacy education, the topic of my speech. We gathered in the legendary Cash Room to celebrate and honor financially literate students, while recognizing that we still have a long way to go in financial education.

I cannot say how many times I heard “In the wake of today’s economic crisis.” However, the reason that quote was used so many times is it is absolutely true that in today’s economic standing that the future leaders of our country and controllers of our economy must understand finance in order to prevent financial disaster.

Students must learn what IRA’s and 401(k)’s are. They must also learn how to properly invest their money. Most importantly, they must know how much they can afford to pay in mortgage every month and not be taken advantage of by corporate policies that earn profit and not consumer trust. There are too many American children who do not know how to establish credit, make a budget, or even write a check.

Some school districts have realized this and implemented a financial literacy course as a graduation requirement, but not all have taken heed of the economy’s recent message. President Obama often talks about not wanting our healthcare system to be a sick care system, but preventative. The exact principle applies to education, making it preventative. We, as a country, can avoid such economic disasters with financial knowledge.

In addition to the classroom, there are exciting ways for students to learn by experience and competition through Career and Technology Student Organizations (CTSO). One such organization is Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), a national student business organization with over 215,000 members. In FBLA, students are able to learn and apply knowledge to win awards and scholarships, while also networking with other students at regional, state, and national conferences.

My experience in financial education has been unique and I can credit my experiences for my achievement of a perfect score on the National Financial Literacy Capability Challenge. Taking classes in World Finance, Economics, Financial Planning, Banking and Credit, and International Finance have helped me gain the knowledge I needed and having a parent in the financial industry, interning at a bank, and serving as President of Maryland FBLA have also given me the experiences of a lifetime.

I encourage all students to take advantage of the financial courses offered at their school, join a CTSO and receive that knowledge that is available to them because not only does it benefit their financial well-being, but it also benefits the country’s. Additionally, I hope that the National Financial Capability Challenge continues for many years because it honors students for their achievements, promotes financial education, and encourages them to be knowledgeable.

Aaron Moore is a student at Overlea High School in Baltimore, MD

See other posts about the National Financial Capability Challenge.

Top-Scoring National Financial Capability Challenge Students Ring The Closing Bell® at the NYSE

Top-Scoring National Financial Capability Challenge Students Ring The Closing Bell® at the NYSEStudents and educators who participated in the National Financial Capability Challenge visited the New York Stock Exchange on April 30 to tour the facility and ring The Closing Bell.

The visit was part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing activities during National Financial Literacy Month. Earlier in the week, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Education Secretary Arne Duncan honored the outstanding achievement of many of the participating students in a recognition event at the Treasury Department.

The delegation visiting the New York Stock Exchange was comprised of students and educators from the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area. They were joined by Michelle Greene, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Education and Financial Access, U.S. Department of the Treasury.

ED Staff

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Treasury Department and ED Recognize High Scoring Students in National Financial Capability Challenge

Treasury Department and ED Recognize High Scoring Students in National Financial Capability Challenge

Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Geithner and Secretary Duncan recognized high scoring students in the National Financial Capability Challenge in an event at the Treasury Department.  The Challenge is designed to increase the financial knowledge and capability of high school aged youth across the U.S.

See photos from the event (below) and the press release.

More Photos

Huffington Post Op-ed: Using Education to Cope With a Complex Economy

The following op-ed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, and Obama White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett appeared on the Huffington Post website. See also the April 28 press release.

While Americans from Wall Street to Main Street focus on much-needed financial reforms that will set and enforce clear rules across the financial marketplace, we also need to recognize that most Americans don’t have the knowledge and skills they need to make the right financial decisions for themselves and their families.

Last year, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s National Financial Capability Study, conducted in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, found that too many Americans are giving away their hard-earned dollars to bank and credit card fees. Most don’t maintain a rainy-day fund for emergencies.

Few are able to perform basic interest calculations necessary to compare the cost of a loan or to figure out how much to try to save. On just about all measures, the study found young adults are the least money-savvy.

In December, the administration announced the National Financial Capability Challenge, a partnership between the Departments of Treasury and Education focused on promoting financial education among high school students and assessing their knowledge of personal finance. The results are in. More than 2,500 teachers and 76,000 students in all 50 states participated in the voluntary exam, which shows interest is strong. But the scores were disappointing. The average student is just squeaking by with 70% correct. Students failed to answer basic questions about credit cards, car insurance, and compound interest. This shows we have a lot of work to do.

Luckily we have important models to follow. For example, at Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, VA, teacher Terri Carson helps students manage the student-run credit union and includes a financial literacy boot camp in all her classes. She had over 100 students take the Challenge. Over half of them scored in the top 20% nationally; 17 had perfect scores. Those results are commendable, and Carson is working to replicate them. She is hoping to work with her school and the Prince William County School District to make sure that all students demonstrate a basic understanding of personal finance in order to graduate.

Today we are recognizing Carson and many teachers and students who participated in the National Financial Capability Challenge, for their commitment to financial education. We hope to see more locally driven efforts to make youth financial education a priority in schools across the country. At the same time, we’ll be doing our part at the federal level. In our schools, we will promote a well-rounded education that includes financial literacy. We will give consumers the information and education they need to make smart financial choices. And we will work to provide all American families with access to the bank accounts they need to manage their daily finances.

The agenda is clear. Let’s pass serious financial reform. Let’s promote financial access. And at the same time, let’s make sure that we are providing all Americans — especially our youth — with the financial education they need to succeed in this increasingly complex, fast-moving economy. Their futures — and ours — depend on it.

Secretary Arne Duncan, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett

Financial Capability Challenge: Update

In December, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and ED Secretary Arne Duncan announced the National Financial Capability Challenge, an effort to help high school students develop the knowledge and skills needed to take control of their financial futures.

In this new video, Secretary Duncan invites high school teachers and other educators to participate in the Challenge.

To participate, teachers simply…

  • sign up for the Challenge by March 14.
  • prepare their students for the Challenge – using their own materials or the free toolkit available to registered educators.
  • administer the voluntary online exam sometime between March 15 and April 9.

Participating educators, high-scoring students, and schools and states with the highest proportion of participating students will be recognized.

Below is a letter being sent to organizations and individuals across the country asking for help in recruiting high school teachers and other educators. The goal is for 1 million students to take the Challenge.

If you are interested in helping promote the Challenge at the state or national level, please contact Phil Martin at, or Dubis Correal at

Read the letter

Administration Officials Promote Enhanced Financial Capability Among America’s Youth

AD @ Financial Literacy Challenge Event at Department of Treasury 56

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and ED Secretary Arne Duncan met with students, educators, and community leaders to announce the first step in an effort to promote stronger financial capability among U.S. students: the National Financial Capability Challenge.

This non-monetary awards program challenges students to take control of their financial future by learning more about personal finance. It challenges teachers and schools to incorporate personal finance topics into instruction. Teachers who sign up to participate will receive a “teachers’ toolkit” to help.

In March, students will take a voluntary online exam to demonstrate what they’ve learned, assess their financial knowledge, and learn more about why financial capability is important. Top scoring students from each school will receive awards in April, and outstanding schools and educators will be recognized.

“The reality is that all children don’t know the basics of saving and investing,” Secretary Duncan said. “It’s a skill they need to be successful in our economy. The initiative we’re announcing today with the Department of Treasury is a step in the right direction.”

Find out more about the announcement and the National Financial Capability Challenge.

ED Staff

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