Spring into action with Individual Financial Consultations
Where do I start saving for the future? How do I open a retirement savings account? Am I on the right track?
Who are MBCs?
As retired educators and financial sector employees, our MBCs know the importance of saving for the future. They’ve spent years in education and have made the decision to give back and support those who work in public schools with their financial journeys.
MBCs are part-time employees who are available for a quick check-in with Wisconsin public school employees for individual financial consultations (ICONs). (For more in-depth help, explore our Financial Planning options.) Two people from the MBC team are highlighted on the sidebar.
What is an ICON?
ICONS are for everyone, whether you’re a first year teacher or months away from retirement.
ICONs are a time for you to meet with one of our MBCs and get your specific questions answered related to your financial journey.
MBCs can walk through your questions on topics such as 403(b)/IRA enrollment, the importance of saving for the future, or tips for purchasing auto and home insurance. They can also help you review or consolidate your current retirement accounts.
How do I schedule an ICON?
Our staff manages their availability on a scheduling platform called Calendly. This allows anyone who wants to meet with one of our MBCs to pop on the scheduling link, find the times that work for them, and schedule their ICON. Easy as that!
If you have a current MBC you’re working with but need their Calendly link, please reach out to them directly. If you haven’t met with anyone from our MBC team yet, visit Consults page to schedule your ICON. We even offer evening and weekend appointments.
Where can I find additional resources?
Our website has great financial resources. Start by checking out our Learning Center, full of articles, resources, and calculators.
Once you schedule an ICON, you will also receive an email with a link to a resource page to use before, during, and after your consultation.
Interested in joining our MBC team?
We are always looking for new MBCs to help us better serve public school employees. Visit our Careers page to check out the job description and learn more. We’d love to chat with you about this amazing opportunity!
Member Benefit Consultants can provide assistance with your retirement savings accounts but do not offer investment advice. Registered Representatives of and securities offered through WEA Investment Services, Inc., member FINRA.
Sarah’s garden of financial knowledge
Sarah Campbell has been sowing seeds since 2009. She has watched those seeds sprout, grow, and in some cases, produce. The seeds Sarah sows are the seeds of financial literacy.
Her passion for financial literacy sprouted in her second year of teaching when she made discoveries about how to cultivate enthusiasm for this important topic in her students. She struggled her first year, teaching content straight out of the textbook. “The kids didn’t care,” she told us.
But after taking courses at the National Institute for Financial and Economic Literacy during summer break, everything changed. The experience showed her how to engage students by making the information personal and real.
Over the last 13 years her methods have changed—going deeper and broader—to reflect the needs of students and to keep up with advancements in technology and the financial world. But she is still teaching Personal Finance at Wisconsin Dells High School (WDHS) with great determination, and her responsibilities have grown, giving her more opportunities to promote financial literacy. But what does financial literacy mean?
For Sarah, it’s not enough to simply understand financial concepts and best practices. It’s much bigger than that. Being financially literate, she says, is about looking at your financial life from many angles—like how you fit into the economy, understanding your role in managing your finances, what your decisions mean to you and those around you, and taking a hard look at what you want your life to be and understanding how finances play into your ability to achieve goals. Sarah likes the term financial independence—it plays like a drum beat in her classes. “It’s the ultimate goal. Regardless of how financially literate you are, the end game is financial independence.”
But Sarah digs deeper still, helping her students look inward at their financial beliefs and why they hold those beliefs. “Understanding the financial mindset that drives decisions, even those that don’t seem financial at the time, can be really useful and necessary.”
If it sounds a little philosophic, that’s because it is. Taking responsibility for your own financial position has been her emphasis from the start, telling students to ‘own’ their future. Her message was and still is, “It’s up to you to determine what you want your life to be like and how you are going to make it happen. No one else can do that for you.”
To incorporate her philosophy in the classroom, Sarah created characters they follow through the units. “I give them a variety of back stories and future plans to reflect the diversity in my class. We analyze their situations, create solutions, discuss back-up plans, and plot out future plans for them.”
And she says a change in scheduling has played to her advantage. Back in 2009, Sarah’s personal finance class lasted nine weeks. Not a lot of time to cover so much ground. That changed to 18 weeks after the district moved away from a block schedule. “I still have around 65 hours, but now it’s spread out into shorter chunks. For me, it’s a win. The longer time frame allows for more time for students to process the information and practice self-observation, and I have more time to build trusting relationships,” she explains.
“Understanding the financial mindset that drives decisions, even those that don’t seem financial at the time, can be really useful and necessary.”
Born to sow
“Without a doubt, imparting financial knowledge is what drives me in the classroom, and not just in the Personal Finance course. I incorporate a lot of financial literacy into my other classes AND my academic support period.” Her additional responsibilities give her plenty of opportunities. She serves as the MATC Dual-Credit Instructor for Accounting and Microsoft Office. Dual-credit courses, she explains, allow eligible students to complete their high school graduation requirements while earning college credits at no cost to the student. “But becoming the Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator was the biggest change to my duties. This program integrates school-based and work-based learning to instruct students in employability and occupational skills.” In essence, students get to “try on” possible career paths without the expense of post-high school courses. Sarah sees it as a time of discovery with very real financial implications.
“I had a student work for two years as an auto mechanic, and during his last semester realized he wasn’t happy. He was relieved that he didn’t waste two years of time and money after high school only to learn it wasn’t for him. Another student, interested in business, was able to complete an accounting program at MATC in a year and a half and begin working. It saved him both time and money,” she adds.
WDHS gives students a head start
Wisconsin Dells is one of just 800 school districts in the nation where a one-semester personal finance course is required for graduation. Currently, just one in six students across the nation graduate with a decent financial literacy education, and only 10 states guarantee at least a one semester course in personal finance before graduation. Wisconsin is not among them—leaving it up to the district to decide if and how they want to do it.
“High school is really the best time to get it into their head,” Sarah explains, “while they are on the cusp of major decisions that could determine the trajectory of their lives.”
Data supports Sarah’s hypothesis. Studies show that graduates of high schools with guaranteed financial education are 21% less likely to carry a balance on a credit card while in college1 and are less likely to fall prey to high-cost predatory loans (such as payday loans) than their peers without guaranteed financial education.2
Statistics like these, financial literacy advocates say, show that providing financial education offers a great return on investment.
“Regardless of how financially literate you are, the end game is financial independence.”
Reaping the harvest
Sarah also has a lot of personal examples where the seeds she sows yield good results.
“Just last summer a student stopped by on her way to college, literally packed up in her new (used) vehicle purchase. She was excited to tell me that although the dealer encouraged her to take a six-year loan to reduce monthly payments as a college student, she was adamant on a four-year loan because she did NOT want to have the loan follow her after college. She was so proud of herself,” Sarah shares.
Another time, she saw a student at a baseball game. “Always the jokester—he told me he bought a brand-new truck and stretched out the loan to seven years! But then he began laughing and said, ‘just kidding, I knew better than that.’ In reality, he purchased a used truck for a price that fit into his budget with a four-year loan.” Then his friend jumped in. “He said he got his first credit card and likes to max it out, then make only the minimum payments when he remembers. He broke out laughing too, and assured me he only uses it for gas and pays it off every month. They knew these things were the exact opposite of what I taught them and they didn’t want to disappoint me. Not only did they apply the concepts to make responsible choices, but they wanted me to know it, too. And, they enjoyed hassling me a little,” Sarah chuckles.
In her own backyard
Sarah’s ultimate goal of financial independence for her students is also something she strives for personally and teaches in her home.
In 2009, when her daughter was just three years old, Sarah was intentional about financial literacy—using real life experiences as teaching moments such as the act of using cash in the grocery store to demonstrate the value of money in a transaction. And the financial lessons continued over the last 12 years.
“Because it has always been just the two of us, we have a lot of discussions about opportunity cost—not necessarily using economic terms, but instead ideas. ‘If we did this, got this, spent this—then what would we be willing to give up.’”
When her daughter turned 15 last spring, she started her first part-time job at a local greenhouse. “She loves getting her email alert on paydays. She examines the hours, the taxes, and the amount sent to her savings account. She’s had a savings account for a long time, but now she can see how her actions affect the balance.”
Her daughter has also dabbled in buying stocks with the help of her uncle. “They decided on an amount to invest five or six years ago. She looked for businesses she believed in and purchased a handful of shares in several. She watches them and has seen the ups and downs in performance.”
Sarah’s perennial practice
As for Sarah, she continues to practice what she preaches “maybe to a fault,” she admits. “Sometimes I am a little too frugal. I do love a good garage sale!” Giving herself permission to splurge sometimes is maybe her greatest financial challenge. “I probably could loosen up and enjoy some spending, but my mindset has always been focused on the financial security side of life.”
Sarah set her path when she was a teenager, taking some of her earnings from summer jobs to open an IRA. Then, she opened a 403(b) when she started teaching and has continued to invest and increase her contributions over the years. Saving is second nature for her. “I feel a great sense of security when I open my statements, knowing that the money is growing and will eventually meet me when I need it.”
Her parents, who retired shortly after the 2009 interview after a combined 78 years of teaching, inspire her. “It is encouraging to see them enjoy a comfortable retirement because of their commitment to saving and investing for their future. It motivates me to stay on track.”
Sarah points to the purchase of her home as the most important financial decision she has made since we last talked. “I was able to buy a home in the neighborhood where I grew up. I’m proud that I managed a 15-year mortgage so it will be paid off in five more years.”
Looking to future seasons
This hard-line approach isn’t for everyone but it works for Sarah. As for her future? She will continue to sow financial literacy seeds at WDHS in and out of the classroom. “I want to grow the Youth Apprenticeship program to reach more students and allow for more opportunities in all career paths,” she says. This school year she doubled enrollment in the program and looks to continue that trend.
“Personally, the next big step for me will be helping my daughter take her next steps in education.” The contributions Sarah has been making to her 529 college savings plan will help with the cost, but you can be sure her daughter will be involved in the financial aspects of her higher education. It’s just how Sarah helps good things grow.
We’re here for you
Learn more about Member Benefits’ programs and services by calling 1-800-279-4030.
1 Stoddard, C. and Urban, C. (2018). The Effects of K-12 Financial Education Mandates on Student Postsecondary Education Outcomes.
2 Harvey, M. (2019) Impact of Financial Education Mandates on Younger Consumers’ Use of Alternative Financial Services. The Journal of Consumer Affairs.
New! Financial Wellness Center online resource
As part of your retirement plan experience, the yourMONEY account portal has a new Financial Wellness Center to help you on your financial journey. Whether you’re on your computer or mobile device, you now have 24/7 access to an interactive library of multimedia financial wellness resources including calculators, videos, tutorials, and articles.
Explore various topics when you log in to your account, such as:
- Retirement planning.
- Investment strategies.
- Debt and credit management.
- Education funding.
- Health care and insurance.
- And much more.
Take advantage of these free resources by clicking on the Financial Wellness tab on your personal dashboard. You can also create a profile by answering a few basic questions to get a customized experience based on your age, learning style, goals, interests, and site usage. The Financial Wellness Center is also easy to search by life stage, topic, or media type.
Financial Literacy: A 21st century survival skill
To say that 2020 was “unconventional” would be a vast understatement. The pandemic hit hard, and what started as a health threat quickly evolved into something bigger, wreaking havoc on our financial health as well. What’s more, it has cast a spotlight on a problem that has plagued the U.S. for decades: the lack of financial literacy.
While this exposure may feel like a “piling on” of the many woes we face in the midst of the pandemic, financial literacy advocates see it as an opportunity to move the needle on our nation’s financial health.
One of those advocates is Patrick Kubeny, a business education teacher in Rhinelander. He may look familiar because his name and face have been on the pages of your$ before.
“Financial literacy is critical for navigating financial decisions…and life,” says Patrick. “It’s a critical survival skill. People’s lives can be monumentally improved if they are financially literate AND if they use that knowledge.”
Without the skill set, he adds, things can deteriorate quickly when events like a pandemic happen—making it increasingly more difficult for those without a solid financial foundation to gain ground.
Lack of knowledge is costly
Patrick has been teaching personal finance for over a decade at Rhinelander High School (RHS), where it is a required course for graduation. And while he is doing his part to instill essential money skills in northern Wisconsin, it’s not a skill we are honing as a nation. In fact, there has been a clear decline in financial literacy over the past nine years—dropping 8 percentage points to 34%.1
Despite having the world’s largest economy, the U.S. is ranked 14th when it comes to the percentage of adults who are considered financially literate, with just over a third of Americans able to answer simple questions about inflation, compound interest, and diversification.2 This lack of knowledge comes with a significant cost as consumers who fail to understand these concepts spend more on transaction fees, run up bigger debts, incur higher interest rates on loans, and save less.
Moving it forward
For Patrick, the solution is simple: more financial education. “Right now, only 1 in 6 students across the nation graduate with a decent financial literacy education,” he says. That’s just 17%.3
The key, he says, is to teach them practical money management skills that will prepare them for adulthood—before they acquire bad habits—and do it in a way that engages them and makes it real. “My favorite way to teach is my favorite way to learn…that’s telling stories. And when the story is true and you can put a name and a face to it, it’s sticky.”
Patrick puts a personal spin on his lesson plans and he does it to a degree that would make most people squirm. “I use my personal finances to support the curriculum as much as possible. I show students my paychecks, Social Security statements, online checking accounts, monthly budget, credit card statements, taxes, and investment accounts. I want the subject matter to be as real as possible because I believe people learn best from examples and real life situations.”
In addition to sharing his finances, Patrick has students take a hard look at their own future financial situation. Students must create a Lifetime Financial Plan that includes their potential earnings, taxes, estimated expenses for housing, transportation, and raising a family. “This exercise shows them what decisions they will have to make and how those decisions will impact their life and financial future.”
Before setting them loose to map their own future, he runs through a scenario that relies on a $10/hr. wage job to illustrate what their bottom line will look like after accounting for real life expenses. “I let them see mathematically what it looks like if they choose to graduate from high school and not pursue a degree or trade. It’s not a pretty picture, but this leads to conversations on education, career paths, and income.” He even addresses the importance of being on the same financial page as your future spouse.
Patrick also coaches RHS teams for the Finance and Investment Challenge Bowl—a program created by Asset Builders. “It’s a fun way for my students to showcase what they’ve learned.” Teams compete in regional tournaments for a spot at the state competition. “Rhinelander teams have done well. I’m very proud of them.”
What’s most pertinent to Patrick and what really fuels his passion is the impact he can have. “These are important skills that these kids will use for the rest of their lives. And the majority of the students think it is a very important and practical course…they actually want to be financially literate.”
Patrick shares that many of his students report they are already using their knowledge to make spending decisions, navigate credit card offers, and even save for retirement with a Roth IRA. This coincides with findings from a 2018 study that indicated 88% of young adults who took a personal finance course said they were using what they were taught in class.4
He emphasizes to students that they need to be in charge of their personal finances. “They alone are responsible for their financial future. I like to say, ‘No one will ever care about your money more than you will, so the more you can learn about taking care of it, the better off you will be.’ ”
Patrick also hears from countless former students. They stay in touch and thank him. Several are now new teachers in his district where he continues his mentorship as a colleague. “One of my favorite things to do is help my fellow teachers. I hope to continue helping educators build financial security even after I retire.”
Patrick’s course is not only popular with the students, parents like it too. “The coolest thing is that there is this ‘trickle up’ that happens when students take what they learn home to their family. Parents come in for conferences and report that they’re getting schooled on financial matters. ‘Did you know this? You should be doing that…’ Parents are impressed and say they learn something new.”
Many ask if they can take the class and Patrick invites them to work on the modules he assigns alongside their kids. “They can do this on their own as well, and the best part is it’s free,” he says.
While not every district will have the parental support for personal finance courses that Rhinelander enjoys, it seems to be on the uptick. National research conducted in June found that 63% of American adults want financial literacy to be a priority in school—even over health and wellness education.5
The “Gold Standard”
This year, RHS received a $10,000 grant from the nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF) thanks to Patrick’s continued passion and advocacy for financial literacy. “While the topic of personal finance has been taught at Rhinelander High School for decades, we became eligible to receive this award because we recently adopted a policy requiring all students graduating from our school to take and pass a specific one semester personal finance course,” Patrick explains.
NGPF is very supportive of other courses such as economics or consumer education that include financial instruction; however, they only provide grant monies to schools that specifically require a personal finance course. RHS is among 800 school districts in the nation to require a one-semester personal finance course, but one of only 23 high schools in the country to earn the grant and be designated a “Gold Standard” school.
A way ahead for Wisconsin
When it comes to financial literacy statewide, however, Wisconsin as a whole doesn’t fare so well. Wisconsin earned a grade of “F” in a 2017 report on financial literacy from the Champlain College Center (The Center) for Financial Literacy. Every two years, The Center uses national data to grade all 50 states on their efforts to produce financially literate high school graduates.
For the most part, Wisconsin leaves it up to the district to decide if and how they want to do it. The Center is in favor of statewide mandates, but Patrick isn’t sure that’s the optimal way to go. “Some districts would be hard pressed to find the money or the staff qualified to teach personal finance. If you don’t have the ability to do it well, it probably won’t be as effective as having it come from a local, more organic effort.”
He notes that it took years for Rhinelander to make the change. “My predecessor and colleague did a great job getting the course added as an elective, and she advocated from day one for it to be required. Unfortunately, she retired before it was realized, but she was instrumental in getting it done,” he says. Patrick also had solid support for the policy change from his principal and the school board.
Patrick encourages educators to consider teaching or proposing a personal finance class in their district.
“It will change your life and the lives of your students. A fringe benefit of being a personal finance instructor is that you’ll learn how to improve your own finances when you teach this class.”
A great place to start, he says, is NGPF (ngpf.org). NGPF is a resource Patrick uses often in his classroom. They have a library of classroom resources and they offer certification courses. Patrick is about to complete his fourth certification course. “And there is no cost.”
Patrick is at the tail end of his teaching career and he feels fortunate to be winding down in such a positive and satisfying way. “I am just happy to know that when I retire it won’t mean the end for financial literacy in the district. I am very proud of my school district for being progressive and adopting a policy like this. I hope other school districts will be motivated and inspired to do the same thing. I sincerely believe that districts should not be asking themselves how can they justify a mandated policy like this; rather, they should be asking themselves how can they justify NOT doing so.”
SOURCES: 1 FINRA: 2018 State of U.S. Financial Capability study / 2 Standard & Poor’s survey / 3 Impact of High School Financial Education-World Bank study / 4 2018 study T. Rowe Price / 5 Charles Schwab Financial Literacy Survey
Professional: Patrick has been a business education teacher at Rhinelander High School since 1993. He is the recipient of the 2020 Excellence in Teaching Award given annually by Economics Wisconsin, a $10,000 grant from NGPF, and was named a 2020 Kohl fellow. Patrick is nationally certified to teach financial literacy and was a 2013 Recipient of the Governor’s Financial Literacy Award.
Personal: His family includes wife Katrina (who teaches 5th grade in Elcho), a daughter (22), and a son (19). His wife, mother, and in-laws all have Roth IRAs with Member Benefits. Patrick is looking to retire in the next couple of years but won’t be at a loss for things to do. He loves to hunt and fish and hopes to continue helping Wisconsin teachers become financially secure.
Financial literacy resources for the classroom
Be sure to read our article, Financial Literacy: A 21st century survival skill.
Wisconsin educator Patrick Kubeny is helping move the needle forward on students’ personal finance know-how and shares how he has built up financial literacy curriculum at his high school—and how you can, too.
Financial literacy resources for the classroom
Next Gen Personal Finance
Moving financial literacy forward by advocating for educators and providing free classroom resources and training.
American Financial Services Association Education Foundation
Patrick also relies on this resource that helps educate consumers of all ages on personal finance concepts.
Statewide organization that offers professional development for elementary and secondary teachers to assist them in educating students about economics.
Wisconsin nonprofit organization promoting financial education and wealth-building strategies to enhance the quality of life of low- and moderate-income youth, families, and communities.
National coalition that raises the importance of financial literacy and the importance of effective financial education.
WEA Member Benefits Don’t Be Jack™ Student Edition
Don’t Be Jack wins again! Member Benefits has received its second EIFLE award, winning the 2020 Game of the Year Award from the Institute for Financial Literacy. The student edition is based on the original game we created as a financial education option to help Wisconsin public school employees learn how to build their financial savvy and security.
Member Benefits worked in collaboration with local teachers and subject matter experts to create the game based on Wisconsin’s Academic Standards for Personal Financial Literacy for grades 9–12.
The format is flexible and allows students to work in teams as they make decisions and learn and discuss different personal financial issues or situations they could encounter in life. The game is available to Wisconsin public high schools for free. Visit our Web site to request it for your classroom.
Member Benefits’ financial literacy resources for you
For participants in our retirement programs, yourMONEY offers a Financial Wellness Center with 24/7 access to an interactive library of multimedia financial wellness resources. See the winter 2021 issue of your$ magazine for details.
We also offer a variety of seminars, eBooks, and personal financial consultations. Plus our various financial planning services can assist you whether you are just starting your career or planning your exit. Call us at 1-800-279-4030 for more information.
T. Rowe Price New Era Fund
The T. Rowe Price New Era Fund is a specialty fund. Specialty funds invest primarily in the securities of a particular industry, sector, type of security, or geographic region. As a nondiversified fund, this fund operates predominantly in the energy and industrials sector, with a majority of its holdings in companies that focus solely on natural resources such as oil and gas. Fifty-five percent of its stocks are based in the United States, while the other 45% are outside of the United States.
The earnings and tangible assets of funds that invest in natural resource companies may benefit from periods of accelerating inflation. The T. Rowe Price New Era Fund is built on long-term gains, which is why it could be used as a hedge against inflation if placed in a well-rounded portfolio.
But it is also a cyclical fund. This means it may experience explosive growth and portray large gains and profits during certain business cycles, while in other economic cycles it may post moderate or below average returns, as well as principal loss. It also has a great deal of sensitivity subject to natural disasters, declining currency value, market liquidity, or political instability, which can all have negative impacts on the performance of the fund.
So when building your portfolio, make sure you are balancing out your risk and accounting for the variety of economic events that can occur over your lifetime.
If you have further questions about the fund, give us a call at 1-800-279-4030.
This is not an offer. Securities can be offered by the prospectus only. The T. Rowe Price New Era Fund is not suitable for all investors and the prospectus should be read carefully by an investor before investing. Investors are advised to consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing. This prospectus, which is available at SEC.gov and weabenefits.com/investments, and may be obtained by calling 800-279-4030, contains this and other information about the fund. Securities offered through WEA Investment Services, Inc, Member FINRA.
Don’t get reeled in by phishing scams
Have you ever received an email like this? This is just one example of many common phishing emails that tend to make the rounds. Most of us have received more than one—in fact, over 100 billion spam emails like this are sent every day.
Phishing is a scam in which a person uses fake emails, texts, and/or phone calls to try to get you to share valuable information such as your Social Security number, account numbers, or user names and passwords. Once they have this information, they may steal your money, your identity, or both. They may also try to access your computer or network by installing ransomware or other programs after you’ve clicked a link in one of their emails or texts. These programs can lock you out of your computer and allow thieves to steal your personal information.
Don’t take the bait
There are a few common tactics you can watch out for that scammers use to try and entice you to hand over your personal information.
Familiarity. Using familiar company names, or pretending to be someone you know, is known as email spoofing. The email appears to be from a trustworthy source, like a legitimate company, family, friend, or even coworker, and lends the recipient a false sense of security that makes them more likely to open files and click on links.
Website spoofing is often used in concert with the fake email by linking it to a website that looks legitimate, but isn’t. When the user goes to the site, they may be asked for sensitive financial or login information. These fraudulent websites may also contain malicious code that ends up on the user’s computer.
Timing. Attackers often take advantage of current events and certain times of the year, such as natural disasters, health scares (like COVID-19), major political elections, and holidays.
Attention. Attracting your attention with lucrative offers or eye-catching statements is another common tactic. For example, a message may claim you just won an iPhone, gift, or large amount of money. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Enticement. Scammers will try to encourage you to click on a link or open an attachment. They often tell a story to trick you by claiming they’ve noticed suspicious activity, such as stating there’s a problem with your account, directing you to make a payment, or announcing you’re eligible for a refund.
Limited time only. Phishers rely on urgency to increase the odds of pressuring you to ACT NOW and quickly hand over your sensitive information. A legitimate website for a bank, credit card company, or other organization isn’t going to have an air of desperation about it by posting urgent messages on their website. If you see this on a site you visit, double check the URL to make sure you’re actually in the right place.
Avoid getting hooked
- Stay vigilant and be wary of unsolicited requests for your personal information online, by email, or by phone.
- Do not share any user names, account numbers, or passwords with anyone, and don’t use the same password across accounts.
- Never trust alarming emails, and don’t open attachments from strange emails you may receive.
- Use security software on your computer and keep it up to date.
- Set your mobile phone software to update automatically so you don’t miss critical updates that protect against security threats.
- Use two-factor authentication on all accounts that offer it—besides using a password, you also add a second step like a fingerprint or special code. This makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your user name and password.
- Back up your data someplace not connected to your home network, such as an external hard drive or cloud storage site.
- Unsure about a link to a website? Look the business up separately online and call them directly, telling them about the message you received. Your bank, for example, will never ask you to send your password or personal information by mail or email.
- While not a guarantee of a website’s legitimacy, look for secure websites with a valid Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate. They’ll begin with “https” and have a closed padlock icon in the status bar. (Eventually all sites will be required to have a valid SSL.)
- Carefully read any email messages you receive. Is it missing your name? Is there bad grammar or spelling? Is it asking you for personal information?
- Hover over links (don’t click on them!) to see the actual URL you will be directed to. Look at the web address carefully—it may just be one letter off or something similar.
Top frauds of 2019
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), these were the top schemes reported by more than 3.2 million people in 2019.
- Number one fraud: Imposter scams. Imposters pretended to be calling from the government or familiar business, a romantic interest, or a “family member” with an emergency. People reported losing more than $667 million to these schemes, which they often paid with a gift card.
- Top government scam: Social Security imposters induced fear by threatening people with arrest by marshals or police officers until the imposters received money. The median individual loss was $1,500.
- Phone calls were the main way people reported being contacted by scammers. Those who didn’t hang up and followed through on scammers’ requests had a median loss of $1,000.
During 2019, FTC law enforcement actions led to more than $232 million in refunds to people who lost money. If you spot a scam, report it at the Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistant.
Money. It’s ubiquitous. At every turn we are either working to make it or spend it.
Like it or not, money plays a big role in everyone’s life story. How much of it we have or don’t have impacts where and how we live. But it’s not just the amount of money we garner that matters, it’s how we manage what we have—our financial decisions. And our decisions are tied to our financial knowledge.
Financial IQ=financial health
April is Financial Literacy Month and a good time to take an inventory of your financial knowledge and money management skills. Regardless of your age or circumstance or how fiscally savvy you think you are, there is always something new to learn about finances, especially in this ever changing world.
Plus, research shows a strong correlation between our financial IQ and our financial health. For instance, people with a high degree of financial literacy are more likely to plan for retirement—and those who plan for retirement have more than double the wealth of those who don’t. Conversely, people who have a lower degree of financial literacy tend to borrow more, accumulate less wealth, and pay more in fees related to financial products. They are less likely to invest, more likely to experience difficulty with debt, and less likely to know the terms of their mortgages and other loans.
Boosting your knowledge as an adult requires some time and effort, but Member Benefits is here to help. We provide financial seminars around the state, and we promote financial literacy every day in all that we do. We believe that having the information needed to make sound financial decisions can mean the difference between being in control of your money or being controlled by it. So whether members call us on the phone, meet with one of our consultants, or attend a seminar, our approach is always “educate first.” (See tips on how to Freshen Up Your Financial Knowledge.)
Improving financial literacy is why we developed our Don’t Be Jack™ learning game a few years back—it offers a fun and interactive way for Wisconsin educators to learn about financial concepts specific to them. Not only has it been popular, but it has also proved to be effective in changing financial behaviors. Because what good is knowledge if it isn’t applied?
A game with purpose
A 2014 study administered by the University of Wisconsin Center for Financial Security (CFS) found that Member Benefits’ Don’t Be Jack game positively impacted the financial behavior of those who played it. Don’t Be Jack participants were more likely to engage in a variety of positive financial behaviors than nonparticipants. For example, participants were more likely to have set a financial goal—which is one of the central precursors to behavior change—than nonparticipants. Players were also more likely to have estimated their retirement savings needs and to have met with a financial advisor in the past year. And lastly, they were much more likely to purchase an umbrella policy (additional liability insurance) to help protect their assets.
Don’t Be Jack was so well received that educators started requesting a student version. With the expert help of Erich Utrie (Jefferson Middle School) and Julie Woletz (UW-Whitewater), we now have the Don’t Be Jack™ High School Edition. The game content was written to meet the current Wisconsin Academic Standards for Personal Financial Literacy for Grades 9–12, and it’s available at no cost to Wisconsin public educators.
The high school game allows students to apply financial literacy concepts to real life situations and shows them how their decisions can affect their finances now and in the future. It’s also extremely flexible—teachers can modify game play to accommodate their classroom needs.
The student test run
Recently, the game was played with students at La Follette High School in Madison during an accounting class. The students worked as teams to build a budget that consisted of fixed expenses, like rent and student loans, and discretionary expenses, like entertainment, saving, insurance, and gym memberships. All teams had the same net monthly income to work with and the same fixed expenses with one exception—they needed to decide how much auto insurance coverage they should have and then apply the premium. The discussions around this budgeting process were interesting and collaborative.
After their budgets were set, game play began. Teams rolled the die to move around the electronic game board. Depending on where they landed, a card was drawn with a financial question or scenario. Correct answers advanced them along the board. Incorrect answers moved them back.
Special events were triggered throughout play. For instance, Round Three triggered a $60 per month pay raise which each team incorporated into their budget. Round Five is called Accidents Happen. Each team rolled a die, and the number they rolled represented something unexpected that had varying degrees of financial implications. The scenarios ranged from a hail storm to a catastrophic accident. Students seemed truly surprised at the impact these “accidents” could have on their finances now and into the future if they hadn’t made certain choices when first creating their budget.
Bringing the concepts home
While the typical board game is won by getting around the board before your opponents, the real winner of Don’t Be Jack is revealed when each team’s retirement savings contributions are reported and plugged into a compound interest calculator at econedlink.org. This dynamic calculator showed what players’ savings decisions during the game could mean when they reached age 65. There was quite a spread in the results. One team hadn’t allocated any money to savings, leaving them with no personal savings at age 65, while another team saved enough to have over $1.1 million dollars at age 65.
The students appeared awestruck at the result of the calculation, just like adult players have done when they see the power of compounding. It was an impressionable exercise—and one they are not likely to soon forget.
Accessing the game for your classroom
If you are a Wisconsin public school educator interested in using Don’t Be Jack in your classroom, visit the Don’t Be Jack™ High School Edition page. Register and, once confirmed, you will be able to access all game materials including the teachers guide, game cards, electronic game board, student packet materials, and more. Once you’ve registered for the game, you’ll receive notification of any updates to materials or teaching aids. There is also a limited quantity of preprinted game kits available on a first come basis, so sign up soon.8
Of note: Wisconsin schools are in the midst of the their first full school year implementing components of Wisconsin Act 94 that require school districts to adopt academic standards for financial literacy and incorporate instruction into the curriculum for grades kindergarten through 12.
Why teach kids about money?
It’s never too early for parents to start teaching kids about money. In fact, research from the University of Michigan (UM) of 5–10 year olds (and their parents) seems to show that what you learn and the choices you make, even at the earliest age, may be indicators of your financial future. The 2018 study found that children as young as 5 had distinct emotional reactions to spending and saving that translated into real-life spending behavior.
UM researchers used a spendthrift-tightwad scale designed for children. The children were aligned to the scale based on their responses to questions about saving and spending. Children identified as tightwads had a stronger negative emotional response to spending than those who fell into the spendthrift category. Spendthrift children were far more likely than tightwads to spend money on an item—even if they didn’t love it. This proved out in real life when each child was given a dollar to either spend or save.
Interestingly, their attitudes toward spending or saving didn’t match that of their parents—who completed an adult version of the tightwad-spendthrift scale.
The results may be related in part to the fact that parents said they felt that children should start learning about money at age 12, which implies that there is little or no intentional home-schooling about money prior to that age. Considering this study indicated that early spending behavior might foreshadow financial decisions later in life, parents may want to consider teaching kids about money much earlier than previously thought.
Teaching children earlier, getting them involved in managing their money, and understanding the family finances may also allay some of the contradictions between parent and teen expectations about money uncovered by a Junior Achievement survey from 2018. For instance, there seemed to be a disconnect when it comes to paying for college. Forty-eight percent of teens think their parents will help pay for college, while only 16% of parents report plans to pay for tuition or other expenses.
There also appeared to be a misconception about how much financial knowledge parents are sharing with their teens—90% of parents say their children are learning from them, yet 34% of teens say their parents do not discuss money with them. In addition, parents of teens may be surprised to learn that only half of them cite becoming financially independent from parents as one of their future goals.
One explanation for why parents don’t actively teach their children about money may be that they lack confidence. The 2018 National Confidence Poll showed the Financial Confidence Index (FCI) at 57.8 on a 100-point scale, indicating that American money habits reflect low-to-moderate financial confidence. Just another reason to take some time to raise your financial literacy. It’ll be good for you—and your children.
8 tips for teaching kids about money
Teaching young children about money doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are 8 smart (and easy) ways to help introduce younger children to money.
Playing board games such as Monopoly® and Life® is an enjoyable way for kids to learn about money.
Take your child shopping
Make your next trip to the grocery store a fun learning activity. Let your child help you find items and track costs, and include them in the decision process when making selections.
Give an allowance
By grade school, kids are able to do chores around the house. This helps them learn responsibility and how to manage their own money.
Encourage saving and giving
Give your child three different savings containers—one for saving, one for spending, and one for donating to a charity. Decide together how to divide up the allowance between the three jars. Glass jars or clear containers give your child an easy view of their progress.
Take it to the bank
Take your child to the bank with money from their savings jar. Open an account and explain why putting money in the bank is a good idea.
Show them the value
Let your child take some money out of their spending jar to go shopping and help them understand what they can get with the amount they chose to bring. This also gives them hands-on experience with transactions.
Younger children may think that money comes out of ATM machines or that you simply pay for things with a credit card. Help them understand how these actually work.
Set a good example
Children are like little sponges. They are watching and taking in everything—including how we adults handle money.
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