Non-Profit Teaches Financial Literacy to Children and Adults

The collapse of the economy in 2007 was the biggest financial crisis the nation faced since the Great Depression. For almost two years this financial earthquake shook our economy causing devastation in the housing market and on Wall Street. However, one good thing to come out of that period was a new era of financial literacy.

Darlene Martin, owner and founder of the non-profit organization Money Smarts School of Finance for Children (MSSFC) noticed many of the wealth management programs focused on teaching adults. Martin strongly felt if the economy was to recover it was up to her to unteach those economic mistakes that contributed to the crisis and focus on teaching the next generation. 

For 10 years, MSSFC has served close to 300 children in the St. Louis area. The organization teaches grades 6-12 financial tips using real life demonstrations, small group activities and field trips. 

For 10 Saturdays during the spring and fall, kids and parents can learn together about the stock market, balancing expenses and building substantial wealth.  

According to the MSSFC, teaching good financial habits will help push the economy one step closer to improving our financial status and address the number of unbanked and underbanked  adults. Helping create thrifty routines that will carry on into adulthood is one of Martin’s top priorities for her students. 

Martin believes most of the programs out today don’t expand on the foundation of financial stability. Important factors like earning money and saving money aren’t discussed in depth. According to Martin kids who are a part of her organization have the opportunity to learn how to build wealth, maintain it and successfully pass it on. 

“Our hope is that over time, financially savvy kids grow into financially savvy adults who pass what they have learned about money management on to their children, thereby establishing financially stable families, marriages, local communities, and regional markets.  Not only this, but the spending and saving habits of an informed consumer can potentially influence the type of products and services available in the marketplace,” said Martin.

In the beginning, MSSFC held classes at the William J Harrison Education Center in the Jeffvanderlou community. During that time the organization had the opportunity to serve children in underdeveloped  communities. Many of the students learned valuable lessons in investing, stock market  tips and the importance of maintaining a good credit score. She feels because some families reside in those areas the knowledge of financial literacy isn’t talked about.

The organization’s classes have since relocated to the Microsoft Store in the St. Louis Galleria, and Martin says even though they are further from where they began it didn’t stop  families from traveling to attend the classes, which she feels speaks to the testament of how the parents believe in the work she does. 

Martin’s unique curriculum places students in realistic situations through fun games called Stock Market Savvy Kids and Financial Facts of Life. She brings in experts to help further push the lessons that are being taught.  Wealth managers, estate attorneys, bankers and insurance agents have all been  a part of Martin’s vision in breaking generational curses of bad spending habits all taught using games and other classroom activities. The Financial Facts of Life game highlights common economic  hiccups such as  layoffs. Each student will decide the best solution for their financial problem, and based on those decisions it will reflect their social and economic status. She even goes as far as including parents by making them bill collectors and utility companies. If the students are late in paying their bills she will have a mock ‘service interruption’.   

“This will allow each student to comprehend, recall and utilize the personal financial principles obtained as a student at the Money Smarts School,” said Martin. 

Martin is very passionate about money management and personal finances. After witnessing fragile portfolios from her clients as a wealth manager she knew that teaching kids these critical lessons at an early age would help reverse some of the economic riffs that so many families face daily. 

To register, visit their website at  www.moneysmartschoolforchildren.org .

Ashley Winters

Author: Ashley Winters

Ashley Winters is a staff reporter at The NorthSider. She's a north St. Louis native and a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. In the near future she plans to write and publish children's books. She can be reached at ashley.winters@thenorthsider.com

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