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Financial Planning > College Planning

A Local Solution to ‘Generate Enthusiasm’

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Mark Tibergien writes this month that financial services professionals “lack a venue to showcase what we do and to generate enthusiasm for our world.” Out of modesty, Tibergien didn’t mention that a program he began at his own Michigan high school nearly 10 years ago has created just such a venue that may be part of the solution.

As we reported last July, Tibergien funded a financial literacy program at Gladstone High School; during an interview at the Pershing INSITE conference in June, he provided an update on the growing program.

Erika Fix, the lead teacher in that program, has expanded not only the high school program, he said, but has also brought a similar curriculum to younger students. Tibergien said Fix has begun a fourth-grade financial literacy summer camp that also involves their parents. Noting that Gladstone is situated in an economically challenged part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, parents of the campers talk to a financial advisor before camp begins, and as a reward for their participation, those parents are given a modest stake in their own 529 college savings plan.

Last year, Tibergien was quoted by a local Michigan paper as saying that the impetus for starting the program was to see “if we started teaching personal economics at the high school level, where real [behavioral change] takes place, some of these kids would contemplate finance as a career, but at a minimum they would at least be more financial savvy when dealing with financial professionals if they were a client.” Tibergien personally donated $20,000, supplemented by a $10,000 match from Pershing parent BNY Mellon, to increasing financial literacy and promoting careers in finance. He and Fix asked the high school students in the program to deliver their ideas to achieving those objectives.

At INSITE in June, Tibergien said he had three goals in launching the financial literacy course. First was to increase the financial literacy of students before they headed to college or the full-time workforce (the literacy class is provided to seniors at Gladstone), literacy that would allow them to make more fiscally prudent decisions throughout their lives. The second was to “improve the reputation of our business” among the public. The third, he said, was to provide a modest “feeder” for the advisor community in particular and the financial services industry in general.

As a result of his gentle yet insistent advocacy for this grass-roots program, Tibergien said “over 100 advisors have pledged” to fund similar programs at their own high school alma maters. Feeling inspired and want to learn more? Send an email to [email protected].

— Read more from Mark Tibergien about an unusual source of inspiration for how to build up the next generation of advisors


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