For Immediate Release - April 03, 2006

Healey Urges High Schools to Implement Financial Literacy Program

Commonwealth receives national leadership award for HiFi's success

MARLBOROUGH - Two days before the release of a national survey that has historically shown the majority of high school seniors do not have sufficient knowledge of personal finance, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey called on all Massachusetts high schools to implement the Commonwealth's voluntary financial literacy initiative known as "HiFi."

"Whether a student is headed to college or right into the workforce, they need to be equipped with the critical life skill of understanding personal finance," said Healey. "The financial choices young people make early on can impact the opportunities they have in their future."

Speaking to the junior and senior classes at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, Healey added, "We want our talented students to have the opportunity to start their careers with financial stability right here in Massachusetts."

The Commonwealth's first financial high school literacy program was implemented on a voluntary basis without costing schools extra money or impacting required curriculum. Since the program launched in May 2005, nearly 400 teachers are now teaching the six-unit personal finance course or have taken free teacher training seminars to use the course with existing curriculum in nearly 200 cities and towns across the Bay State.

It is estimated that during the next school year 34,000 Massachusetts juniors and seniors - 25 percent - will have received personal finance instruction. HiFi coordinators recommend that the course be used by junior and senior classes following the completion of MCAS requirements in sophomore year.

Healey pointed to disappointing results from a survey released two years ago by the JumpStart Coalition, a national association that promotes the teaching of personal finance, which showed high school seniors scored below sixty percent in personal finance basics. The organization will announce results from the 2005 survey on Wednesday that includes results from ten randomly chosen Massachusetts high schools for the first time.

Ted Beck, President and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education, presented Healey and state officials with a national leadership award, highlighting that HiFi serves as a national model for other states across the country.

"The success of this program relies on educators recognizing the importance of financial education," said Beck. "Massachusetts has created an exemplary model that demonstrates a response to this need and the real beneficiaries are the young people of this state."

"Teens today have greater disposable income and access to credit. They are also the targets of far more aggressive marketing," said Consumer Affairs Director Janice Tatarka. "We must teach a level of understanding earlier so they have the sophistication to make smart choices and build a sound financial foundation."

"The HiFi program has come along at just the right time. Parents and former students acknowledge they never had this instruction when they were in school and were unprepared for the basic financial decisions they had to make living on their own," said Education Commissioner David Driscoll. "HiFi makes that connection to real life experiences."

Healey also declared April 2006 as Youth Financial Literacy Month in Massachusetts and encouraged schools to implement a uniform, voluntary high school financial literacy program.

Assabet Valley Regional Technical senior Amanda Rebokis joined her math teacher Cindy Zomar to describe the educational value from the student/teacher perspectives.

"I've turned from a spender into a saver and have a new appreciation for how to handle money," said senior Amanda Rebokis. "I ask myself if I really need something before I buy and I put a set amount in my savings account regularly."

"Our former consumer math course really didn't encompass savings and investment options. But the NEFE curriculum provides the skeleton to build-in useful financial literacy basics and the options to bring in guest speakers and use the internet as supplemental tools to expand the students' knowledge base," said math teacher Cindy Zomar.