Eight banks, including the Institution for Savings, that have long supported financial literacy in Massachusetts public schools have formed a partnership to bring a popular event virtually to students this spring.
High school students throughout Massachusetts can participate in the Credit for Life Fair via creditforlife.org, which is under construction. The goal is to have this available by the end of March.
With the idea it will be a part of a high school class, the site is being designed by Stackpole & Partners of Newburyport in collaboration with the Institution for Savings, Cape Cod 5, Bay Coast Bank, HarborOne Bank, The Savings Bank, Rockland Trust, Westfield Bank, Country Bank and FitMoney.org, a not-for-profit financial literacy organization.
The Credit for Life Fair, a half-day event where high school students assume the roles of 25-year-old adults and spend their "paychecks" on everything they will need to live, has been a popular event in many Massachusetts public schools for more than a decade, according to a press release.
Many banks and credit unions throughout the state host these events, using local resources and volunteers, and the Massachusetts State Treasurer’s Office of Economic Empowerment has encouraged more fairs in recent years by making grants available to schools to participate.
The pandemic brought most of these events to a halt. While several groups, including the Institution for Savings and Andover High School, pivoted to offer virtual fairs, participation was down at both events.
Organizers connected last summer to explore collaboration on a better virtual experience in 2021 given the limits the pandemic had placed on large in-person events.
They enlisted FitMoney.org, which supported both spring fairs through its partnership with New England Patriots player Brandon Copeland, a passionate financial literacy advocate. Eventually, the group expanded to include other banks that pooled money to hire Stackpole for the design and implementation of the website, with FitMoney.org serving as fiscal agent.
“One fact that we all agree on was that the Credit for Life Fair is one of the most important and impactful events we do every year,” said Mary Anne Clancy, senior vice president of marketing and communications at the Institution for Savings, one of the founding sponsors.
“With Massachusetts legislation enacted in 2019 authorizing financial literacy to be taught in public schools, we know educators might appreciate this type of program ... so we thought, why not collaborate and deliver one common tool that all schools can use to teach the same lessons?”
David Floreen, former Massachusetts Bankers Association senior vice president, and organizer of Andover High School’s event, said in the release, “Our long-term hope is that we can eventually go back to in-person fairs. In the interim, this website is a tool that educators and others can use right now, with the support of banks and other community organizations. Teachers are being asked to do so much right now, and this is one way we think we can help.”
Only six states in the country require high school students to take at least one semester-long personal finance class before graduation, according to Next Gen Personal Finance’s 2019-20 progress report, and 15 more have personal finance in another course. The remaining states, including Massachusetts, do not require students to have any personal finance education before graduating.
In early 2019, Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation that allows state education officials to establish standards for financial literacy that schools could incorporate into their curricula in subjects such as math, business and social sciences. It is unclear how much progress has been made on this initiative given the constraints put on schools by the pandemic.
The website development is in its final stages and will be beta tested by a group of educators and others in the next month. The group hopes to have the site ready for use by high schools and others by the end of March.
The group is also establishing a 501(c)(3) that will allow it to raise money and plan for future school financial literacy initiatives similar to creditforlife.org.