RALEIGH — “It changed my life.” That’s what rookie New England Patriots cornerback Joejuan Williams said in a recent interview about the financial literacy course he took when in high school.
Williams, who just inked a four-year, $6.6 million deal, is giving credit to that course for his careful spending habits he says led him to invest 90% of his NFL checks while living off the remaining 10%.
Williams also wants to make sure courses like the one he took are available to all high school students and says he hopes to one day start a financial literacy program to reach disadvantaged students in urban areas.
“For a lot of public schools in inner cities, it’s not required to take any personal finance classes to graduate or even learn about money in that sense,” Williams told Boston.com. “That’s not the real world. The real world revolves around money. It really puts a lot of inner-city kids who don’t have much at a disadvantage.’’
Financial literacy courses go beyond the basics that public education typically offers — delivering real-world skills and knowledge about the stock market, 401(k) plans, managing credit, certificates of deposit, IRA’s and many other finance topics.
North Carolina has had some financial literacy integrated into the state’s American History: Founding Principles, Civics and Economics course for some time now, but recently-enacted legislation brings a separate full-credit course on Economics and Personal Finance (EFP) into the picture.
“I think it’s been really cool to see North Carolina making big steps in the right direction,” said Lauren Matrazzo, who served as Miss North Carolina in 2018.
Matrazzo said that as she crisscrossed the state during her reign, she visited a number of schools, and financial literacy was a prominent topic.
“The principals of just basic financial management are not that complicated. Once you have it down, you can apply it for the rest of your life,” Matrazzo said. “But until we can level that playing field and get the same education when it comes to financial management, then I think we’re at a disadvantage.”
The North Carolina legislation recommends covering all aspects of credit in depth, such as the true cost of credit, choosing and managing a credit card, credit scoring and credit reports. Learning how to borrow money for and manage payments for large ticket items like a car, a home and even college tuition is also included.
The EFP legislation was championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who had been working on the concept of implementing enhanced financial literacy courses in N.C. schools since he first took office in 2012.
Forest, who is running for governor in 2020, has rolled out an education platform that includes an aspect of financial literacy through a “learn and earn” process. The process highlights students entering the workforce to earn money while working on their postsecondary education.
Forest’s plan says this approach keeps kids from being strapped with “tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt without a clear career objective.”
Going forward, EFP courses will be offered in all North Carolina high schools and the new requirement will also apply to charter schools, regional and laboratory schools, the innovative school district, and the renewal school district.