An Unlikely Alliance Brings Financial Literacy to Florida Students

As an entrepreneur, I understand the critical role that financial literacy plays in our world today, and while I’m trying to do my part to provide the information, resources, and connections to help budding entrepreneurs through my nonprofit organization, Action Zone, I also realize that I’m only a small part of a much larger equation. 

That’s why I was so excited to hear about the financial literacy curriculum that was signed into law late last year by our Governor, Ron DeSantis—especially when I heard about some of the people involved in developing it. I’ll talk more about that in a minute. But I was even more excited when I learned what the Department of Education was doing to get students engaged with the curriculum so they will actually learn from it and apply the principles in their own lives. 

This is something particularly near and dear to my heart after seeing what the soldiers I served alongside while on active duty and the budding entrepreneurs I now work with were taught—or more specifically, what weren’t taught, about money in school. For example, I was required to attend a financial literacy class at my first assignment, and there was a person in the class who didn’t realize that when they used the ATM, that the ATM fee came out of their bank account. Another thought that as long as they had checks, they had money in their bank. And I was shocked at how many soldiers lived paycheck to paycheck.

To solve this problem, the DOE formed a 13-member working group consisting of educators, curriculum developers, and noted financial experts, Dr. David Phelps and Kim Kiyosaki, who then spent the next year crafting the new financial literacy curriculum. But early in the process, a discussion came up about how to get the students to actually care about it, because we all know they think they know everything. (Just like we all did at that age.) After some brainstorming, it was suggested by a member involved with the process that they get celebrities the students already recognize and admire to get involved by having them explain the importance of financial literacy from their perspective, in a short selfie video. The DOE is using these videos to get the students interested in and engaged with the curriculum.

Powerful, quick, and to the point—perfect for kids who grew up swiping through social media like they’re spinning the wheel on The Price is Right. Plus, these celebrities can get through to the students in ways their own parents and teachers often can’t.

Several prominent celebrities have already joined the cause to support the Florida Department of Education’s mission of imparting sound financial literacy principles to future generations. 

These celebrities include Mark Cuban, host of the hit TV show, Shark Tank, serial entrepreneur, and venture capitalist, Kim Kiyosaki, co-founder and CEO of The Rich Dad Company, Matt Higgins, guest host on SharkTank and founder of the private investment firm, RSE Ventures, Mark Pellegrino, TV & movie actor known for American Rust, Beverly Hills Cop 4, Lost, Supernatural, The Big Lebowski, Dexter, and many others, Lori Greymont, Creator of the real estate TV show Funding Faceoff, Mario Henry, former wide receiver with the NFL’s New England Patriots, and Dean Rogers, former tight end and fullback with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers, to name a few.

Dr. David Phelps underscores the critical importance of financial literacy and highlights a concerning statistic—43% of Americans lack financial literacy, a fact that fosters a false sense of security and often leads to the kind of poor financial decisions with long-lasting consequences we see so many people make today.

“All of us, as parents or citizens of this great country, have concerns about the direction it’s going, and without the understanding of financial literacy, without understanding the basic consequences of the decisions our government representatives have made, this country will stay on this precarious path. We’re seeing generations of our youth feeling frustrated, feeling desperation about their lives and the impact that decades of bad economic policy has created. It’s far different than when I was growing up and we essentially had tailwinds of a strong economy and some periods of time when it was relatively easy to save, invest, and build a nice lifestyle. Today the environment is completely different and our kids deserve to know the truth, and they also need to know the reality that these financial literacy concepts are their ticket to the same life that we’ve enjoyed over the last 40 years,” Phelps explained.

Kim Kiyosaki says the problem is bigger than most people realize because despite money being a fundamental aspect of daily life for everyone, 64% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck today.

“Money is a life skill. We use it every day. Yet, kids come out of high school with no idea how to use, manage, and much-less grow the money they earn. Why most schools do not teach kids about money is a mystery. Unfortunately, it is because of the lack of financial literacy that so many adults struggle financially, so I applaud the state of Florida for requiring that every high school student complete a financial literacy course, and I applaud the celebrities who have graciously volunteered to help get Florida students to understand the importance of this topic,” Kiyosaki explained.

I’m excited about this collaboration because of the impact it will have on future generations of leaders both here in the Tampa Bay area and beyond. As these kids grow up and enter the workforce, become entrepreneurs, and lead families, companies, and communities, the lessons learned from Florida’s new financial literacy curriculum will help to ensure a more successful path, and the positive impact from that will ripple throughout the country.

I’m grateful for the work they’ve put into creating this, and for the generous support from the celebrities helping to get the kids engaged so they’ll learn this valuable information that will change their financial trajectory for life.

*Note: Celebrities who want to help the Florida Department of Education in its mission to teach financial literacy to students, by sharing a video of their opinion on the importance of financial literacy, should get in touch with Spartan Media’s founder, Jeremy Knauff.

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