Episode #13 | Dr. Billy Hensley: Financial Literacy – Empowering Americans via Education
July 17, 2019
"To me, the American Dream shouldn't be a one size fits all. It should be a find the size that fits you … and use money as a tool to help facilitate that."
- Dr. Billy Hensley
"Why don't we require a financial literacy class in all high schools?" Many parents—and young adults—have asked that question. It turns out the answer is not as simple as one might think. Dr. Billy Hensley, CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education, explains why in this episode. Even better, he presents a roadmap for creating a world in which all Americans can achieve financial capability and stability.
About Dr. Billy Hensley
Dr. Billy Hensley was appointed president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) in 2018. From 2010-2018, Billy served as NEFE’s senior director of education. He serves on the board of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning. In 2019, Billy was named to the CNBC Financial Wellness Advisory Council. He received a doctorate in educational studies from the University of Cincinnati and a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Union College. His research has been presented at state, national, and international conferences and is published in numerous academic research journals.
I first got to know Dr. Hensley two years ago when I joined the board of the National Endowment for Financial Education. Having sat on previous national and local non-profit boards, I immediately knew that there was something very special about NEFE. It was a time of transition; NEFE’s iconic CEO Ted Beck had just announced his retirement. To say that whoever was selected to replace him would have big shoes to fill was quite the understatement.
The competition for the role was extremely stiff, and Dr. Hensley was ultimately selected for the job. Both his passion for this work and his unique approach informed by his undergraduate degree in psychology, his master’s degree in education, and his doctorate in educational studies set him apart. It meant that Dr. Hensley brought with him a skill set that ranged from understanding human fears around money curriculum to putting in place the elusive but essential components that enable education to result in behavior change.
In this episode, you’ll hear Dr. Hensley’s down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach to this vital issue. Most of all, it will leave you with a comprehensive overview of the state of financial literacy and education in America today.
Manisha’s Top Takeaways
- Surprisingly, financial fragility exists at a wide range of income levels.
Twenty percent of people earning $100,000 or more would have difficulty coming up with $2,000 in a month if they had to by any means necessary. The need for financial education crosses all sorts of demographics. [21:00]
- The question of why don’t we have mandatory financial education classes in all high schools has a much more complex answer than you might think.
For example, each of the 50 states makes their own decisions about how to educate students. What’s more, when you add financial education to the curriculum, something else must come out. Then there’s the issue of whether teachers tasked with teaching financial literacy have been given proper training to do so. The list goes on… [3:45]
- While we tend to speak of the American Dream as if it is one unified viewpoint, that’s a culturally simplistic and financially dangerous way to frame it.
The American Dream has always been in flux, from no taxation without representation, to Manifest Destiny, to the unbridled and unregulated capitalism of the 1920s, to the push for homeownership in the late 20th century. [24:20]
Other Major Topics
- Like grocery shops and clothing stores, educational institutions also struggle with this issue! [5:50]
- Type this common financial question into Google and you will get 25 million results. [10:20]
- The commonalities between obesity in America and lack of financial literacy [12:25]
Resources Cited in the Episode
- National Endowment for Financial Education
- CNBC op-ed by Dr. Hensley: “Let’s stop the argument that financial education doesn’t work“
- “On Your Own,” NEFE’s blog
- “Smart About Money,” NEFE’s free online education program
- “My Retirement Paycheck,” NEFE’s free course to help you live off your savings in retirement
- High School Financial Planning Program, NEFE’s free program for high school teachers
- “Cash Course,” NEFE’s free online course for college students
- “Financial Fragility in the US: Evidence and Implications,” George Washington University
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