Fifth-grade students were working with an online lesson of the “Vault — Understanding Money” course. The lesson was considered important enough for Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard Jr. and Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission Director Bill Parker to come from Nashville to observe the class.
Lillard said he is proud of the good financial credit of the state government. He said its triple A rating is a result of the state’s good financial management, which is ranked best among the 50 states. The same can not be said about many of the state’s citizens. Lillard said the state ranks first in the nation in the number of Chapter 13 bankruptcies, the type of bankruptcy designed for wage earners.
Lillard made Friday’s trip to East Side and has made about 15 to 20 other trips to elementary school classes this year because he sees a real need to change the Tennessee culture on personal economy. He is dedicated to improving the level of financial literacy in the state.
“Life is about choices,” Lillard said. He told the East Side boys and girls that “you can live well on a small amount of money if you make the right decisions.”
To make his point, each student was given a set of two cards. One one card was printed the word “need” and on the other was printed the word “want”. He then drilled them on what items, such as food or transportation was needs and whether a 2-pound steak or a $100,000 sports car were needs or wants.
State Sen. Rusty Crowe and State Rep. David Hawk also attended the class, and asked the students if Vault was helping them learn about finances. The students answered that the lesson was helping them.
Lillard became state treasurer in January 2009 and soon began working to improve financial literacy. One of the first steps was to get the legislature to pass the Financial Literacy Program Act of 2010. With that accomplished, the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission was created. The commission’s mission is to “equip Tennesseans to make sound financial decisions when it comes to planning, saving and investing,” the group said.
One of the East Side teachers of the financial literacy class is Christy Malone, who is also vice chairwoman of the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission. Malone has served on the commission since its start eight years ago and is the only teacher on the board.
Malone said she got on the board when Ed Alexander, who was then the superintendent of the Elizabethton City School System, recommended her.
The commission selected the Vault instruction after reviewing it and competing formats. It is free to classrooms across the state. Lillard said the costs have been paid by two sources, the state legislature and by corporations across the state that support the commission’s efforts. Lillard said Carter County Bank is one of the supporters.
The commission also provides seminars in teaching financial literacy to teachers. One of the seminars was taking place on Friday at Northeast State Community College.
For more information on the free Vault instruction and on improving financial literacy, contact Bill Parker at 615-741-2956.
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