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Priceless: Volunteers Bring Financial Literacy to the Masses

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Financial know-how is one of our nation’s most pressing issues. Efforts to support financial literacy already exist — including programs from banks, brokerage houses, technology firms, professional services companies and from at least 13 states which require personal finance coursework as a high school graduation requirement. Despite these efforts, however, only 35 percent of teens know how to manage a credit card and only 20 percent of teachers feel prepared to teach the subject.

To help combat this critical social gap, corporate philanthropy initiatives of all shapes and sizes have been created.  Leading companies are working to empower people across the country (and world, in some instances) by putting their core financial literacy competencies to work.

For example, PwC is mobilizing its most important asset — its 35,000 people who are skilled in finance, accounting and business — to address youth education with a focus on financial literacy. The firm’s centerpiece commitment, formally titled PwC’s Earn Your Future, was launched at Clinton Global Initiative America in June.  It’s a five-year commitment to reach more than 2.5 million students and educators and represents a $160 million investment for the firm, $60 million in cash and 1 million service hours.

The firm is already activating on its pledge.  This fall it teamed up with Knowledge @ Wharton High School to offer a 3-day, all-expenses paid training session for more than 200 educators around the country to shore up their skills in the subject.

And most recently, during Martin Luther King, Jr. day, which is known as a national day of service, PwC employees spent the day giving back—from teaching financial literacy modules in schools to hosting career exploration programs for youth organizations. This approach not only helps the staff develop their skills, but also aligns with Dr. King’s work to empower individuals and strengthen communities.

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“We identified a set of projects that supported PwC’s Earn Your Future commitment and helped the markets support them,” said Heather Wright, Corporate Responsibility Director at PwC. And the response was powerful.  Wright describes the feedback from participants as “tremendous,” noting that they “just lit up when we empowered them with this knowledge.”

PwC’s Earn Your Future serves as a testament to how such skills-based initiatives can make a significant and tangible social impact both at the micro level (such as helping empower the homeless) and the macro level (teacher training seminars that specialize in financial literacy). Wright notes that learning about financial literacy appeals to a wide group of people; indeed, the housing market crash and economic recession illuminated that financial literacy is imperative for people of all income levels and socioeconomic classes.

For PwC, the skills-based program isn’t just about altruism. “It’s a shared value concept,” says Wright.  “PwC is helping our youth develop strong financial foundations that enable them to contribute to a growing workforce and healthier economy; and we’re providing our partners and staff opportunities to both develop their leadership skills and give back to our communities.”

In short, the greater the number of financially literate and empowered people, the more PwC is able to succeed. It’s a win-win.

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