Preparing the Student for Success with Financial Literacy Education

Do you know the power of financial literacy? With financial literacy, we can change generational poverty, strengthen families, increase innovation, and make our communities safer.

Last month, I shared the stage with another former Bronco and Super Bowl champion, Rod Smith. We’ve gone far beyond the new football season or the new Broncos quarterback and our fondest memories as players. We are now part of a bigger team, a team responsible for promoting financial literacy in our communities.

We had an amazing conversation about the need for financial literacy and economic education, the individual lessons we learned about making smart financial decisions, finding coaches (off the court) to mentor us, and what we hope for future generations.

As Coloradans, we have the spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation, fans of epic sports, and limitless opportunities to achieve our dreams. For these reasons, Colorado became our home for Rod and me during and after our time as the Broncos. Yet, despite Colorado’s entrepreneurial environment, there are currently no statewide graduation requirements for schools in Colorado to offer personal finance or economic education courses. In fact, only about 25% of school districts in the state include personal finance in their approved degrees. We need to do better for Colorado’s future.

Economic Education Month each October has just ended and we have a golden opportunity to prioritize teaching these essential life skills – all year round.

Median credit card debt among Coloradans is the fourth highest in the nation, and the state was awarded a “C” in financial education by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, which rated all 50 states on their efforts to produce financially competent high school graduates. We need to help future generations prepare for the big life decisions they will face – how to save for the future and support the next generation.

When Rod and I sat on stage, fireside chat style at Economic Literacy Colorado’s fall fundraiser, we urged the audience to equip our young people with life skills that will prepare them to success. Some of our main takeaways include:

  1. Chase your dreams but take it slow. One of the hardest things to do as an adult is to save money. As two football stars who started earning big bucks at a rapid pace, we were tempted to make big purchases, as was the custom among our peers. But the wise told us: save 40% of your income, and when it comes to a purchase, wait.
  2. Educate young people by taking them with you. Mentoring makes all the difference for a young person. Bring them with you for a trade deal, sit them next to you on Zoom while you negotiate, and show them what you bring to the table. This lights the way for them to do the same.
  3. We don’t know what we don’t know. School is where you will learn and develop essential skills for life. We need our education system to step up and provide our children with personal finance and economic education to prepare them for future success.

Before Rod and I had a chance to talk, we heard about an incredibly inspiring young woman, Trinity Scales, a senior at the Denver School of the Arts. She wants to be a singer and songwriter and I have no doubt that she can achieve anything she wants.

Trinity recently attended Economic Literacy Colorado’s Invest In Girls Summer Symposium to meet women in business and finance. She shared how meeting these inspiring women showed her that she had other career options and paths she could follow to succeed in life. Trinity represents our future. We find that regardless of background, young people in our state are eager and ambitious to learn more about the tools available to them to achieve financial independence. If we can expand access to educational programs, we will change the success of our next generation.

Join me, Rod and Economic Literacy Colorado in advocating for students like Trinity. You can do this by:

  • Ask if your child’s school teaches personal finance or economics.
  • Learn about the personal finance and economics requirements at your child’s school.
  • Champion economic and personal finance education when talking to others.
  • Mentor young people and find them a place at the table.
  • Urge your legislators to impose economics and personal finance graduation requirements on schools.

Colorado is home to so many successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. Let’s ensure our young people have the opportunity to learn and become savvy consumers, prepared and productive professionals, all empowered financially for years to come.

Louis R. Hancock