Behind a Corporate Funder's Big Push to Help Kids Learn About Money

Money for financial education is flowing pretty steadily these days from banks and other financial services corporate foundations. Now PwC, one of the Big Four auditors and the world's second largest professional services network, is coming through with grants big and small to improve financial education and skills development for children.

Financial lessons learned well in childhood tend to sustain themselves into adulthood, and corporate foundations that do asset building and financial education work are growing more aware of the need to start financial education earlier in a child's life. PwC Foundation, the giving arm of PwC Corporation, has been on a mission in this department, with a $160 million investment over five years that started in 2012.

What is PwC doing to bolster children's financial skills? One new educational tool PwC is supporting is a Time for Kids magazine called Your $, which will be distributed monthly during the school year to about two million students in the nation's schools. Each four-page issue will delve into an aspect of finance, like budgeting, investing and taxes. The March issue will cover the perils of identity theft. 

Since the 2012 launch of the Earn Your Future program, PwC has given out grants to local schools and other nonprofits to help build tools for financial literacy for children. The program aims to give out $60 million in funding and $100 million in volunteer hours over five years.

PwC’s Earn Your Future program zeroes in on two goals: helping children and young adults develop critical financial skills and providing resources for educators and training them to teach financial literacy skills. PwC has 39,000 volunteers putting in time and professional skills on this project, and since 2012, estimates that they have given 425,000 hours of time to youth through active and retired partners and staff. They also estimate additional support to youth-related causes at  $43 million over the past two years.

Why do financial services companies take such a huge interest in kids and finances? Some of this investment is about brand recognition, to be sure, and getting kids used to names like Capital One, Wells Fargo, and even PwC, since services like tax preparation and auditing are part of what kids are being taught early. But financial services companies are also renewing their interest in this field since the Great Recession, realizing the value of giving kids a head start on financial management in a challenging economy in which the stakes are high, and financial missteps can result in reduced credits scores and other negatives that limit opportunity.

Recent grantees from PwC's Earn Your Future program include Covenant Preparatory School and Grace Academy, two tuition-free middle schools for underserved families in Hartford, CT. The schools received $50,000 in December 2014 and will use the money for a host of initiatives including mentoring and teaching financial literacy.

Another recent big winner of support from PwC is the MIND Research Institute, which received $3.2 million in funds for the development of an innovative financial literacy curriculum.

The MIND Research Institute is widely heralded for creating a one-of-a-kind, non-language-based approach to teaching math. MIND Institute’s Spatial-Temporal (ST Math) curriculum is getting lots of props for significantly raising math scores in schools that use it. MIND's programs also teach a broad array of problem-solving skills including developing perseverance and financial education and aptitude. 

MIND will use its PwC grant to create a curriculum centered on saving, investing, credit, debt, home buying, and general money management. The program MIND plans to roll out will be game-based and will target students in grades six to eight. 

All this action from PwC is evidence of a fast-growing sector for schools and educational products focused on advancing financial literacy for youth across the U.S. If this investment pans out, our children will be taking the proceeds to the bank for years to come.