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Never Too Young: Personal Finance for Young Learners is an elementary school level after-school/out-of-school program designed to instill a real-world understanding of personal finance and economics. The program was developed in response to a growing demand for teaching students about personal finance in settings outside the traditional school day. While there is no lack of material for teaching personal finance, there are few approaches that take into account the particular features of an after-school setting—for example, the broader range in age and ability of students participating in an after-school group; that the group may meet in a location that is not set up like a standard classroom; more sporadic participant attendance; and, perhaps most importantly, a lack of trained educators prepared to teach personal finance in this setting.
The Never Too Young program responds to these gaps by employing a complete curriculum designed specifically for after-school/out-of-school settings. Structured in 12 units, the program can be taught to K-5 learners over the course of two to four months and teaches young students the basics of banking and credit, the cost of running a family, and the importance of cost-benefit analysis in making purchases. It is designed to be taught by after-school providers, with support from content experts. The service providers are connected to seasoned economic educators, who train providers on both the content and delivery, and then provide follow-up support during the initial implementation to ensure that service providers are comfortable with teaching the lessons.
Since initial piloting in Wilmington, DE, and St. Cloud, MN, nearly 6,000 students in 15 states have participated in Never Too Young, and the program has reached a large number of high-need students. For example, in New York City, where we work with the YMCA and Good Shepherd Services, 86% of participants came from schools with a significant number of students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch.
Results and feedback have been positive. In New York City where pre- and post-testing was conducted among student participants, 3rd-5th graders showed a 19% average improvement gain from pre-test to post-test. According to the counselors who participated in the Never Too Young program, 95% responded “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” in response to the statement, “Overall, I believe this personal finance program was effective in teaching basic economics to students.” As one counselor wrote, “The fifth graders absolutely adored it, understood it, and wanted more each Tuesday. It was a great pleasure to see them learn something so beneficial and have fun doing it…The thing that surprised me most was how interested the entire fifth grade was in the program. I thought it was going to be an issue engaging them in something that usually comes across as boring. THEY LOVED IT!”