University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute study holds promise that financial literacy education can help students nationwide build important financial foundations
March 16, 2021 - Newly released findings from a two-year study of the efficacy of financial education on middle school students affirm significant knowledge gain in the subject matter, and advocates more such learning be provided to students in this age group. Conducted by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute (UMDI), the largest study of financial education efficacy on middle school students focused on FutureSmart, a digital financial education course for grades 6-8, developed by the social impact education innovator, EVERFI, and available nationwide at no cost through a grant from the MassMutual Foundation.
The complete study and its findings were published today in the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning. Through a comparison of pre- and post-course assessment data, researchers found significant and consistent gains in financial knowledge for all students regardless of personal or school characteristics and regardless of how the program is implemented with students. In particular, the study focused on the impact of the curriculum on four key student outcomes: financial knowledge, feelings of confidence with the subject, communication with parents on fiscal topics, and current and future engagement with financial systems.
Among the key findings:
- 90 percent of students who took the one-time FutureSmart course experienced knowledge gain
- Students experienced up to 22 percent knowledge gain following the one-time FutureSmart course
- Knowledge gain increases were consistent across all student demographics including race, age, gender, school year, and socio-economic status
- Knowledge gain increases were also consistent across all implementation variables, including the use of supplemental materials, timing, and pacing of the instruction
“Based on our study of the FutureSmart program, this research offers strong evidence that financial education is effective – and necessary – for all middle schoolers across the country,” said Jeremiah Johnson, Ph.D., senior research manager at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute. “We are optimistic about its findings and hope it stimulates conversation about the vital need for more financial learning among all young students.”
FutureSmart learning empowers students to effectively manage their finances, make sound decisions concerning money, and become financially responsible. The curriculum and course design were developed with both students and teachers in mind to deliver effective instruction in both live and virtual learning modes. Through a story-based narrative and interactive exercises, students learn to make real-life decisions about their personal finances, as well as how to achieve important goals around saving money, education and career planning, and budgeting. FutureSmart was designed using Bloom's taxonomy framework of hierarchical learning and assessment and it is aligned with Jump$tart Coalition’s National Standards for K-12 Personal Finance Education.
“These findings come at a critical time for our country,” said Dennis Duquette, president of the MassMutual Foundation. “It is imperative that we work together to empower future generations with effective financial literacy skills. Understanding money and how it works provides an important foundation for long-term financial health and resiliency. We recognize there is still more work to do in this area, and we are excited to continue our efforts to reach more students with our FutureSmart program. We believe that by democratizing access to this important education, we are able to support our broader commitment of helping build more vibrant, financially healthy communities - particularly for those communities that are left behind or at high risk.”
MassMutual and EVERFI have worked together since 2015 with a commitment to bring financial literacy education to students in all communities nationwide. Both organizations have recommitted themselves to reach more students, teachers, and school districts with this critical financial literacy education. The course has been used by more than 13,000 schools across the U.S. and has certified more than two million middle school students, of which 44 percent attend school in low-to-moderate income (LMI) communities. By 2025, FutureSmart is on track to reach nearly six million students through a total investment of $50 million from the MassMutual Foundation.
“This two-year study affirms the work we are doing with students and teachers each day,” said Ray Martinez, co-founder and president of EVERFI. “The results are conclusive and show that all students, despite any other external factors, will benefit from this education. It is imperative that we ensure that all students, no matter their zip code, have access to the tools and resources to be successful in a complex world. We are committing to working alongside the MassMutual Foundation to get this critical education in front of all middle school students.”
FutureSmart offers seven 30-minute lessons that educate students on emergency savings, budgeting, paying bills, investing, interest rates, and charges, among other important financial topics, and is accessible in both English and Spanish. Students can also utilize the FutureSmart app, which launched in 2017. The app is an exploratory life simulation that takes students through financial decisions they may face, such as saving, paying for higher education, and opening and monitoring bank accounts. It also allows them to access the education in a way in which they feel comfortable retrieving and working with content.
FutureSmart is just one of EVERFI’s broad offerings of free online education programs for grades K-12. Through the support of its corporate sponsors, EVERFI has been offering financial literacy education to K-12 students for more than 13 years.