TEWKSBURY — Financial literacy appears to have vanished in school curricula along with home economics and other life skills courses that were once part of the student experience. However, just as civics has now been reintroduced, over 20 states have moved to require personal finance courses for high school students, teaching crucial money management knowledge.
And while executing financial transactions has changed from passbooks and checks to debit cards and digital transfers, the fundamentals of earning, spending, and saving have not.
This fall, through a partnership with Tewksbury Federal Credit Union, elementary students at the Center, Heath Brook, and Dewing schools will be offered the opportunity to participate in the Smart Savers Basic Banking program.
Spearheaded by Gratia Gosselin, a financial education professional with over 10 years’ experience working with schools on financial education concepts, the credit union is looking forward to helping raise awareness about the real-world need to understand money.
“The basics are really save, share, spend,” said Gosselin, who has worked with the Tewksbury elementary principals to design a program that will support this education for Tewksbury students.
Gosselin is a certified credit union financial counselor and a certified educator in personal finance.
Heath Brook principal Terry Gerrish is thrilled.
“Saving for the future, whether for a new toy, a vacation, or a college education, is such an important skill to learn and develop. We look forward with excitement to helping our youngest learners start their own savings accounts,” said Gerrish.
Parents will be furnished with details in mid-September. There is no obligation to participate.
Gosselin said, “even a penny found in a pocket is valuable for students to learn to save.”
Students will make deposits twice a month and will receive a receipt.
Gosselin has also worked with the Wynn Middle School and TMHS to present financial concepts to students.
“It all starts with a budget. Students need to know that a budget needn’t be a restriction, rather a reality check on their income versus spending,” said Gosselin.
Gosselin also works with nonprofits and counsels residents on savings and how to get their finances in order.
“People are often embarrassed about their financial situation. There is no need for this. Some simple adjustments might be all it takes to get their savings back on track,” said Gosselin.
The TFCU has been around for 60 years. One of the founders and later CEO was Tewksbury firefighter Kenneth “Bunky” Holden. What started as a credit union for municipal employees is now open to all Tewksbury residents, employees, town employee retirees, and relatives.
Membership is also open to anyone who makes a donation to the Friends of the Tewksbury Public Library, according to Gosselin.
While Massachusetts has not required financial literacy courses, it did conduct a study through the Office of Economic Empowerment prior to the pandemic. Further, in 2019, then Governor Charlie Baker signed Chapter 438 (Senate Bill No. 2374) which requires that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education establish Financial Literacy standards that “promote an understanding of personal finances,” and schools “may incorporate the personal financial literacy standards… into existing mathematics, social sciences, technology, business or other curricula.”