Disrupting Financial Education with Purpose

On November 17, I took the stage at the 2016 Corporate Citizenship Conference to talk about disrupting financial education.  Today, 46 percent of teens don’t know how to create a simple budget and half are unsure of how to use a credit card effectively. Outstanding student loan debt in the United States is $1.3 trillion, leading more than two-thirds of Gen Z’ers to say their top concern is drowning in debt.  These numbers are alarming, and point to serious issues around financial capability affecting people across America, particularly minorities.

At PwC, we believe we have a responsibility as a business to help our people pay off their student loans, and to use our people’s knowledge about finance to educate high school students about what to expect and plan for financially when it comes to paying for college.  We’ve been a pioneer in helping our students pay off their student debt through a new benefit that gives our staff thousands of dollars towards their debt, and in teaching financial literacy through our Earn Your Future (EYF) initiative, which shows students and educators how to take control of their finances and ensures they are financially literate and empowered.  Almost four years into the program we’ve already spent nearly $200 million and reached 3.5 million students and educators.

Still, neither of these commitments are enough.  We know how many people are affected by financial difficulties in this country and this has to be something we’re all in together to fix.  What we’ve realized is that the world is changing, it’s evolving. The way we think of a classroom and teacher means something different than it did 15 years ago. We need to keep up with the times and where people are – we want to be game changers, be innovative and be disruptive.

That’s why this fall we did something entirely new and different for PwC, and for the professional services and financial industries overall. We teamed up with a rapper named Dee-1 to do an EYF tour with us. Dee-1 is a former middle school math teacher from New Orleans dedicated to rapping about financial topics. His career took off earlier this year when he released a song about the euphoria he felt when he paid back his last student loan.  The video – Sallie Mae Back – caught our attention and we reached out to him to talk about going to college and high schools to help us lead discussions on the importance of understanding financial concepts, such as saving, investing, and money management. We knew being able to combine the authenticity and the message he brings with the lessons and modules we’ve put together to teach financial concepts, it could be a game changer. This is something that excites students and educators alike so they want to talk about them.

Student loan debt and financial capability are big problems. But with that comes extraordinary potential, and the opportunity to be guided by our people and by our purpose. At PwC our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We know that students in every single community across the US have potential to be business leaders and innovators and we want to make sure that happens. We’re going to continue to work with Dee-1, educators, nonprofits, our clients and internal stakeholders to ensure the next generation is financially sound and can pay for their futures.