High school students in Elmont recently took a major step in learning how to set up their finances for the future.
More than 400 juniors and seniors from five high schools in the Sewanhaka Central High School District, along with more than 25 faculty members from the social studies and business curriculums, participated in financial literacy and college prep day at UBS Arena on Sept. 19.
UBS and its partners, Barron’s and EVERFI, hosted the event, providing students with financial literacy resources along with expert advice from executives and account managers.
Speakers taught students about investments and formulating budgets, and told them that it’s never too early to start thinking about managing their money.
“No matter what you have, you have to budget,” said Bill Carroll, UBS’s managing director and East Division director. “You have to pay yourself first to think about not incurring debt. You have to be responsible, and not spend more than you have, and to think about the future, because it comes quickly.”
Students showed they were engaged throughout the day, and ex-pressed interest in learning about their future finances. They asked questions such as how to earn college scholarships, the best way to create a budget, where to learn how to complete a financial plan and how to find information about a career on Wall Street.
“Budgeting helps set financial boundaries and teaches us good and proper spending habits at a young age, especially going into college, (and) teaches us independence,” said Sewanhaka student Danny Esposito. “Certain rules apply to the real world, and when we enter adulthood, as far as college goes, we learn to spend money properly.”
While the schools do their best to focus on financial literacy, Carroll said businesses must do their part to help out.
“We live in a world today with limited resources and many other challenges,” he said. “I think the schools really do the best they can, but I think it’s incumbent on the financial professionals and financial firms in the community to step up and do more.”
The Sewanhaka Central High School District is the first district on Long Island to implement a financial literacy requirement, after implementing a mandate last year that will soon go into effect requiring students to take a financial literacy class in order to graduate.
“Many of our students are in personal finance classes, and we offer a lot of it in college prep where they go over the FAFSA (federal student financial aid) forms, college applications, grants and loans,” said Jen Lehmann, district coordinator for business and technology. “It’s really difficult, but our personal finance teachers do a great job with that and with all the financial literacy that we give our students. They really are prepared for what’s out there.”
Scott Greene, administrative assistant to the district’s superintendent, added that educating students on finances as they prepare for college would help as they move to the next level in life.
“This is the age where every financial institution is offering free credit cards for them to start building up their credit,” Greene said. “Some take it as a credit opportunity to start building, and some abuse it. That’s where the kids need to learn how abusing it is going to affect them.”
One of the key messages given during the presentation was that any student could get involved in the financial world.
“For too many years, Wall Street has been a white, male-dominated industry,” said Carroll. “I wanted them to know that women, people of color, and everyone has an opportunity.”
Among those in attendance was Neil Smith, UBS east divisional client relationship manager and former general manager of both the Islanders and the Rangers. Smith, who enjoyed a successful front office career in the NHL, which included winning the Stanley Cup, said he felt that encouraging the youth to be smart with their finances was a message he needed to spread based on his upbringing.
“I didn’t have any money until I was later in life, until I got more successful, but I think the best advice you can get is to try to have your own self-budget and self-restraint,” Smith said. “Sometimes money can get the best of you. If, in fact, you can put in the effort, put in the time and the resources to educate young people on financial literacy, chances are they (will) get to a point where they want to invest money, or they want to have a financial adviser.”