According to a study by the Bank of America, only 16% of youth ages 18-26 are optimistic about their financial future. Amanda Campbell, Financial Advisor at Waddell & Reed, is taking a hands-on approach to changing this statistic by volunteering with Junior Achievement.
“I see in my day to day people come in who haven’t learned basic budgeting and credit skills,” Amanda explains. “They don't understand how much that's going to impact them down the road.” From getting a degree to launching a career, making big purchases and saving for the future, the consequences of those decisions carry on for a long time.
At Van Horn High School in Independence, Missouri, Amanda and her co-worker volunteered with JA and taught an open forum class on basic financial literacy — and the lessons prepared students to make ideal financial choices in their future. In just one day, Amanda was able to inspire a positive financial future for the high school students she met. “It’s really rewarding to see the students who have real questions,” Amanda relates. “I mean, they had a lot of questions. When you’re at that age and you have a question on anything that has to do with basic financial literacy, it's benefiting everybody that's listening because they're all now learning about that.”
“Because they were older kids, it was really fun,” Amanda says. “I had a young lady in the class who was living on her own and was interested in banking. We helped connect her with a bank and set up her first checking and savings account.”
Equipping students with the financial tools they need to thrive has never been more important. In fact, recent studies show that 44% of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency with cash, 43% of student loan borrowers aren’t making payments, and 33% of American adults have $0 saved for retirement.
“I’m talking a lot about student loans and credit card debt with the people who come in to work with me,” Amanda says. “Once I give them a roadmap and they’re willing to put the work in, we’ll get to a point where they can start building emergency savings and then some sort of retirement savings and wealth. But it’s all about the foundation and that’s why I like Junior Achievement.”
Volunteering in the classroom gives Amanda the opportunity to mitigate the disparity of generational wealth in our country. “Regardless of where you started, you can move forward instead of getting over your head, which is very easy to do as a young person who doesn't know any better.”
Coming into the classroom as a woman and financial expert is how Amanda sparks real change. “It’s empowering,” Amanda shares. “This is something where somebody can really take the knowledge they get and build upon themselves.”
Furthermore, Amanda has seen the impact of Junior Achievement on youth as her own children, Issac and Jocelyn, participated in the program at their school, Académie Lafayette. “They already knew I volunteered with Junior Achievement, so when it came to their classroom for the first time they really loved it,” Amanda says. “Both of them were very excited to participate and wanted to talk about it when they came home.”
The Junior Achievement experience was especially impactful on Amanda’s daughter, Jocelyn. “She probably talked about it even more than Isaac!” Amanda relates. “She loved it.” The hands-on activities of Junior Achievement made Amanda’s kids feel “like grown-ups,” she smiles, and helped them understand more than they did before. They were thrilled to come home with their packet of financial tools and continue to play with the pretend money and checks.
Amanda’s experience as a Junior Achievement volunteer inspires her to come back and donate her time year after year. “The thing that made it easy for myself and other folks I know who volunteer is how organized Junior Achievement is,” Amanda says. “You have everything you need when you walk into the school. It's not a lot of extra time or something you have to come up with. You have all the tools.”
To future Junior Achievement volunteers, Amanda says, “There's nothing you can mess up or be nervous about. In the end, it's super rewarding and the kids have so much fun. You just might get more out of it than the kids do themselves.”
Volunteers, like Amanda, are challenging the cycle of poverty and creating opportunities for future financial security for kids right here in our community. With Junior Achievement’s help, and your support, students have the tools they need to thrive.