Tim Ranzetta realized the need for an accessible course for young adults and co-founded Next Gen Personal Finance. The non-profit organization provides online personal finance curriculums, games, free resources and teacher toolkits. We spoke with him about the importance of teaching kids about their money.
Want alerts about our Pro Tip profiles? Sign up for our Easy Money newsletter, sent to your inbox each Friday.
This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity.
What inspired your work at Next Gen Personal Finance?
A decade ago, I volunteered to teach a summer course for incoming ninth graders at Eastside College Prep, a school in East Palo Alto, Calif. for students seeking to be first in their family to go to college.
I created my own curriculum and discovered two things: Every student wants to learn how to manage their money, and many students were going home to talk to their parents about what was covered in class. Four years later, I took what I had learned from teaching this course and started Next Gen Personal Finance. I had the good fortune of having Jessica Endlich as my co-founder. Her educational background was instrumental in creating a curriculum that teachers love.
Why is it important for high school students to learn about personal finance?
Every student will need to learn to manage their money, and high school is a place where you can reach all students. Most are not learning at home as money remains a taboo subject in many households. Upon leaving high school, they will be immediately thrust into having to make decisions about pursuing further education and how to pay for it, managing a checking account, starting to establish a positive credit history and creating a budget, to name just a few.
Did you learn about personal finance as a student?
I was fortunate to have parents who did talk about money and modeled what it meant to live within a budget, to save for longer-term goals and the value of hard work. I also have worked since I was 12 as a newspaper carrier, a golf caddy, a shoveler of snow, a raker of leaves and other miscellaneous jobs. Earning money at an early age with a goal of paying for college created some early habits that led to me saving over $20,000 for college.
What’s something you’re financially proud of?
I have this incredible opportunity to give back and help the next generation by creating an endowment to fund Next Gen Personal Finance.
What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?
Invest in low-cost, diversified index funds to capture the returns of the stock market. I spent time in my 20s chasing the hot mutual fund and investing in individual stocks. I have been much more successful following this advice about index funds.
What’s the best money you’ve ever saved?
The money that I saved for college. Coming from a middle class family with six kids, I knew that I would need to save in order to go to college. My father provided the right incentives by often matching my savings as I got closer to college age. I ended up saving 75% of my total college cost. Education is the gift that keeps on giving. In addition, saving for that long-term goal helped me develop a strong work ethic.