Forum supports Climb to Safety and its mission to teach financial literacy to elementary school students in the greater Chicago area. Formed by Forum Advisor Michelle Weindruch, CFP®, Climb to Safety endeavors to bridge the financial knowledge gap and prepare students to handle the complex financial issues they will encounter as adults. We asked Michelle about the origin of Climb to Safety and the positive impact it has had on students.
“Being a financial advisor is about helping people make good choices. In many of the conversations I’ve had with clients, they have told me they wished they had learned about financial concepts earlier in life. From my years teaching fourth grade as an elementary school teacher, I know that the earlier you learn something, the easier it is to grasp. That’s why I started Climb to Safety.
An important concept in education is continuity. Climb to Safety gives students eight years to let these essential topics build on each other. In first grade, when the concept of financial literacy is introduced, students learn to differentiate between needs and wants and read stories about ‘good savers’ and ‘impulsive spenders.’ By fourth grade, students are analyzing their own 529 college savings accounts and using vocabulary such as mutual funds, equities and diversification.
The response from parents has been amazing. Parents have shared with me that their children start conversations about financial topics at the dinner table. At every assembly, parents say they have learned something new from the lessons we teach. A few students have told their parents that regarding needs versus wants, coffee and wine do not really qualify as a need. Climb to Safety students are seeing these concepts translate to everyday life.
We incorporated 529s into the program because higher education is the ultimate goal. I really wanted students to see the power of time and growth, and eight years is a good amount of time to experience ups and downs and see the effect of compounding. The program also offers parents a learning experience. Because of the real-world applicability of 529s, we can talk about the actual money in their accounts and the concepts we discuss have meaning beyond the classroom.
I am very fortunate to have two careers that I love, so it was natural to combine them. The program has experienced immense growth since it began, and we're excited to see how Climb to Safety will develop over the coming years.”
About Climb to Safety
In 2014, Climb to Safety launched its program with 28 students. Since Climb to Safety’s inception, three Chicago Public Schools have joined the financial literacy program, which includes biweekly instruction through eighth grade as well as the funding of a class 529 college savings account.
Every class that participates in Climb to Safety’s financial literacy program establishes its own 529 College Savings Account through donated funds. Classroom accounts are divided into individual 529 accounts for each participating student upon graduation.
For more information, visit climbtosafety.org/.