Posted September 21, 2020 in Podcast
Financial Literacy in Schools with Jim King
When you were in high school, did you take a class on how to handle money?
Statistically, you probably didn’t, and I didn’t either. Learning how to handle money and traverse the United States economy is such a crucial part of being successful, regardless of what career you pursue. Personal finance course requirements are incredibly new in several states, and many states still don’t even require students to take a personal finance course in order to graduate. Today, I’m speaking with someone whose mission is to make personal finance courses available for all students across the country.
Guys, I’m very excited to have Jim King on the Reaching Beyond podcast today! Jim is one of the individuals steering the efforts of the company Ramsey Solutions to offer personal finance courses to students.
Jim and I went deep into discussing the importance of financial literacy, the state textbook adoption process, how COVID-19 affected the spread of Ramsey Solutions’ programs, and how their programs differ from other personal finance courses. You’re going to learn a lot from this episode, and it will be especially helpful if you have kids in school, so let’s dive in!
Who Is Jim King?
You may be unfamiliar with Jim King, but you’re likely familiar with his work if you’re aware of Dave Ramsey. Jim King is the Executive Vice President at Ramsey Solutions. He leads the education initiatives for the company and also works on Ramsey Solutions’ operating board. Jim plays a vital role in the direction of the company!
Jim first started working for Ramsey Solutions in 2006. At the time, he was working in education, and he and his wife wanted to begin living off of one income because they had a second child on the way. A friend of Jim gifted him Dave Ramsey’s first book Financial Peace, which helped him pay off his debts and helped him improve his money management skills so that he and his wife were able to live off of his income.
Shortly after, Jim noticed a job posting from Dave Ramsey for someone with a background in education. Jim got the job and began helping Ramsay Solutions spread Dave Ramsey’s financial literacy programs to schools across the country. The programs educate high school students on how to manage money in our economy and overcome debt. Ramsey Solutions’ programs have educated countless students and led them to financial stability at a young age.
Jim and I actually crossed paths years ago! We connected on LinkedIn and eventually met back in May 2019 at Ramsey Solutions, where me and my wife were doing our debt-free scream, which is the segment of the Dave Ramsey Show where guests describe their journey out of debt then scream, “I’m debt-free!”
Jim and Ramsey Solutions have helped countless people free themselves from debt, so I’m excited for you all to hear about their student programs and the great work that they’re doing!
Getting Financial Literacy into Schools
Ramsey Solutions’ Foundations programs are essential tools for preparing high schoolers for the professional world. I myself taught the Foundations in Personal Finance program back when I was a high school business teacher.
Often, when I tell people our story of becoming debt-free and building our finances, people will tell me that they wish that they learned about personal finances in high school, and I wish I had, too. Personal finance courses offer essential tools that every student should learn. Ramsey Solutions offers exceptional programs that I can’t recommend enough. Our kids need to learn these concepts to thrive in the professional world, and I’m so happy that Jim and others at Ramsey Solutions are making personal finance courses more widespread in schools.
Jim and I discussed the primary function of the programs and why they’re so essential. The programs are all about teaching students how to manage money so that they can avoid going into debt as an adult:
“If they understand how money works and how our economy works in the United States, then they’ll be able to avoid a lot of pitfalls, a lot of stress, a lot of angst that will come their way because it applies to everybody, whether you’re making $30,000 a year or you make $300,000 a year. You need to know how to handle your money.” – Jim King
Learning how the economy works and managing your money is essential for being successful, regardless of your profession. It’s crucial that we teach these lessons to our kids before they enter the professional world.
Up until a little over ten years ago, personal finance courses were rarely a requirement for high schoolers. Only three states required students to take a personal finance course to graduate. As a result, schools only offered personal finance courses as electives, so they were mostly unfunded. Interest in personal finance courses didn’t become common until after the financial crisis in 2008:
“We had a big financial crisis back in 2008. … You started to hear a lot more people talk about, ‘This should be taught in schools. We should prepare our young adults better.’ And so it started to shine a light on the issue, which really helped accelerate where we wanted to go.” – Jim King
The stock market crash of 2008 came at an opportune moment for Jim and Ramsey Solutions because they had recently released their Foundations programs. After 2008, the demand for personal finance programs for highschoolers significantly increased. The Ramsey Solutions Foundations programs have now been widely accepted into high school curriculums.
Jim and Ramsey Solutions are now working hard to provide middle schoolers with personal finance courses as well. Jim thinks it’s never too early to teach personal finance concepts to our children:
“We would love to … start teaching these principles sooner. [When] you think about math, you don’t suddenly drop into a calculus class. You’ve built on from algebra and division and multiplication. You’ve built on these concepts all your life while you’re in school, but we have a tendency of [saying] ‘Oh, well, they’re in 11th grade now. Let’s drop them into a personal finance class.’ And they’re hearing terms that they’ve never heard before. So if we can get down and do more in middle school and then even get into [the] elementary market, that would be fantastic.” – Jim King
Jim has a great point. We teach students other subjects on an elementary level to prepare them for advanced classes, so why don’t we do that with personal finances? Personal finance courses are an essential part of developing money management skills that every person should know, so why not teach it to students sooner? Jim and Ramsey Solutions are working diligently to improve the financial literacy of America’s youth. Hopefully, personal finance education will be available and funded in every state for all students someday!
How Textbook Adoption Spread the Ramsey Solutions’ Programs
A crucial step that Ramsey Solutions went through to get the Foundations programs into schools across the United States was a process called “textbook adoption.” In our interview, Jim explained the textbook adoption process:
“The state departments of [education] will put out a call for [textbook] adoption. And you submit your materials for review by the state board, basically, and the government entity in that particular state. … Every time a call goes out for a personal finance textbook adoption, we do that. … And we’ve never not been adopted. We always get adopted at different levels.” – Jim King
Jim stated that the main reason why they always go through the textbook adoption process is to have credibility in the market. Dave Ramsey is an outspoken Christian who references his faith within his programs, so the textbook adoption process confirms the programs’ effectiveness for all students, regardless of belief system, so that it can be taught in public schools. Schools used to ask Ramsey Solutions whether or not the programs are faith-based and appropriate for public schools, but now schools no longer question the programs’ validity because the textbook adoption process corroborates its effectiveness.
“We’ve built a very solid curriculum. And so we wanted to make sure that the education sector knew that. And so [textbook adoption] gave us instant credibility. … As soon as they find out we’ve been adopted in multiple states, they all know what that process looks like and [that] answers the question. So we don’t even hardly get that question anymore today.” – Jim King
Ramsey Solutions created such an excellent program for personal financing that it’s used in both public and private schools as well as in homeschool curriculums.
Jim also discussed the interesting qualifications of teaching religion within public schools and how it affects their Foundations programs:
“Legally, you can have religion taught in public schools as long as you’re not proselytizing and as long as you’re not devotional in nature. And so we just had to make sure we follow those guiding principles. It doesn’t mean that you can’t quote the Bible. … We can talk about building a budget. We can talk about emergency funds. We can tie that back to a lot of scriptural references.” – Jim King
And despite the fact that the programs reference the Bible, they’re still the most widely used high school personal finance programs in the country by people of all sorts of beliefs.
“Around 50% of the schools have our curriculum. And at any given time, about 25% of those schools are teaching our curriculum.” – Jim King
Are you personally familiar with the Ramsey Solutions’ Foundations programs? If not, you should definitely check them out here, especially if you have kids! It’s never too early to teach your kids about personal finances. Money problems plague countless people in our society, and a massive part of that comes from a lack of understanding and education in personal finances.
“Every kid in America should take [a personal finance course], whether it’s ours [or not] … because again … no matter what career fields you go into and how much money you’re going to make, you need to understand how that money works and how to handle your money.” – Jim King
If you know of a school that can benefit from Ramsey Solutions’ Foundations programs, you should consider becoming a corporate sponsor to facilitate the process of bringing the programs into that school. Believe me, these programs save youths from a future of money problems and fast track them to the path of financial responsibility, so consider providing this program for a school!
Increased Demand for Foundations during COVID-19
Back when the COVID-19 shutdowns began back in March, the demand for Ramsey Solutions’ Foundations programs increased dramatically. More schools began relying on the programs to meet their personal finance requirements during the remainder of the school year. The company had largely switched to streaming their programs, but many schools still had the DVD versions rather than access to the streaming versions. Ramsey Solutions generously provided schools with the streaming version for free so that students wouldn’t develop a gap in their education.
The demand for Ramsey Solutions’ self-study program for homeschoolers has also significantly increased with COVID-19:
“The homeschool area and what we call our ‘self-study program’ exploded. We’ve done five times what we’ve ever done before. … There’s a lot of parents that have said, ‘You know what, for this year, I’m just going to keep my kid home.'” – Jim King
Something beneficial that has come out of parents keeping their kids at home is that parents are now also learning from the self-study personal finance program. Many adults were never formally taught the concepts relating to handling money, avoiding debt, and understanding the economy, so Ramsey Solutions’ programs are now teaching them as well. Jim observed that both parents and teachers often have gaps in their knowledge of personal finances:
“The reality is many parents are not handling their money well, which is why our Financial Peace University courses put millions of people through it because they have debts to clean up or insurances to learn about or whatnot. But what’s really cool is we find that the parents and teachers themselves learn right along with the student.” – Jim King
Many teachers don’t want to teach personal finances because they’re not certified on the subject. Teachers from a wide range of fields of study teach personal finance courses, and many don’t actually have proper knowledge on the subject.
“[Many teachers are] not certified in personal finance and they don’t know anything about Roth IRAs and long term care insurance, health insurance, [and] whatnot. … And we tell teachers, … ‘Let our experts on video teach the concepts. … And you as the teacher do what you’ve been trained and educated to do, which is bring real-world application to that classroom, [and] bring classroom discussion to life.’” – Jim King
Ramsey Solutions’ Foundations programs provide experts on video to handle the technical terms that students need to know. What distinguishes the Foundations programs from other personal finance curriculums is that other programs merely provide a textbook. Ramsey Solutions provide classrooms with both textbooks and experts on videos so that students and teachers can develop their money management skills.
In addition to providing an expert to teach personal finance concepts, the programs also offer a different personal finance philosophy than other textbooks and experts:
“The big differentiator for us is we don’t teach responsible use of credit. We teach no credit — You don’t need a credit score. You don’t need debt. … You can get to college without a student loan. You can buy a house without a credit score. … We don’t teach responsible use of a credit card or responsible use of debt or good debt. All debt is bad. All of our competitors and all of the other players in this space all teach [responsible use of credit and debt.]” – Jim King
Ramsey Solutions mostly aligns with the teachings of other personal finance curriculums and experts, including creating a budget, establishing an emergency fund, and the importance of having car insurance and health insurance, but they earnestly teach against the use of credit and debt.
Debt is such a rampant problem in our society. My wife and I overcame $380,000 of debt, and you probably had to overcome debt at some in your life too. I completely agree with Jim that we need to teach children about financial responsibility and how to avoid debt to prepare them for their financial future.
Reaching Beyond with Jim King
Friends, I had such a great time talking with Jim King. He and Ramsey Solutions are doing an awesome job preparing kids to succeed in the professional world. No matter what career your children or young loved ones may pursue, the money management skills taught in Ramsey Solutions’ Foundations programs are critical for their success.
If you’re interested in sponsoring a school so that they can benefit from the Foundations programs, you can sign up here. Also, if you want to learn more about Jim, you can connect with him on LinkedIn.
One last thing that I’d love to share with you from my interview with Jim is his definition of success:
“I would say success is being able to do what you love and be passionate about it and be able to fight day in and day out for what you believe in. … It’s not tied to money, … but more around just being super passionate and excited about what you love and what you’re doing day in and day out is really success.” – Jim King
Are you living Jim’s definition of success and doing what you’re passionate about? Regardless of whether you’re passionate about business, engineering, art, or anything else, you should pursue what will make you happy. Success isn’t all about money — it’s primarily about your passion.
If you found this episode helpful, I’d be so grateful if you took a few minutes to write a five-star review and share it with others who may benefit from hearing it on Apple Podcasts. I’d also be incredibly grateful if you’d tag me, @kyle_depiesse, on Instagram and share with me your greatest takeaways from the episode!
Cheer to your success! I’m rooting for you.