NCBA launches financial-literacy program
North Carolina ranks 37th in financial literacy in the U.S., according to an April report that analyzed 12 metrics — including share of residents with a “rainy-day fund.” The same month, North Carolina Bankers Association Foundation Inc. announced an initiative it hopes will improve the state’s standing.
The North Carolina Center for Financial Literacy will attempt to be a link between local financial-education programs, transferring what works in one place to those areas that struggle. It will be based at the trade association’s Raleigh headquarters and led by Jan Dillon, a 26-year-old Randolph County native and Elon University School of Law grad. She joined NCBA spokesman Brandon Wright to talk about the center. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What is financial literacy?
Dillon: The basic ability to manage your own finances and plan for the future. Planning for retirement is really important, especially for the up-and-coming generations that will live a little longer.
Why is it important for the NCBA to tackle?
Dillon: Studies show the state has very low levels of financial literacy.
Wright: Since the recession, we’ve seen some of the lowest interest rates for the longest period of time in our nation’s history. Consumers have had cheap credit for a long time. We want to make sure that when interest rates and market conditions change consumers are ready.
Why are things so bad in North Carolina?
Dillon: We have large rural areas. Sometimes educational opportunities don’t reach everywhere in our state.
Wright: Look to the east of Interstate 95. For all intents and purposes, it is a third-world country. I don’t want anyone to think that’s a criticism of Fayetteville or Wilmington or anything like that, but it is certainly in very poor economic condition. And to the west, in the mountains. As a teacher told me just the other night, she loves Common Core, but there are certain technological advancements that just haven’t settled into rural areas yet. That is part of Jan’s focus.
How will you fix the problem?
Dillon: Active and experiential learning is more effective. For example, there are programs that allow elementary-school children to open savings accounts. That’s something we want to focus on. Also technology. There are quite a few software programs that involve avatars, games.
What age segment are you focusing on?
Dillon: Just like learning a foreign language, the sooner you learn those habits, the better. We’re working with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and other nonprofits who focus solely on K-12 financial education and going from there. But we think it will expand to all ages.
What’s the state of financial education in North Carolina schools?
Dillon: The North Carolina Essential Standards do include personal finance. In K-8, it’s included in social studies and math. In high school and somewhat in middle school, there are business-technology courses. In high school, everyone takes a civics course that includes it in the curriculum. We want to interweave personal finance through all subjects and work with teachers on special development so that they feel qualified to teach personal finance. We can define standards, provide more resources and determine what the best resources are.
Dillon: I can tell you about our Camp Challenge program for middle schoolers. We’re using a new software program from Everfi called Vault. It involves avatars and games, interactive lessons that kids at camp will do on tablets. Beyond that we bring in speakers from banks and businesses to talk about entrepreneurship. That’s sort of a pilot program for us. Of course, things are different in different parts of the state. We want to work with our network to focus it regionally and locally.
Do you consider yourself financially literate?
Dillon: I do have a budget. I have a spreadsheet I use month to month, and I share that with a lot of people — even more recently.