Five Questions with Steve Rice, EVP, Financial Education, EverFi
Rice claims a genetic predisposition toward EverFi’s approach of
combining technology with personal-finance education: his father was a
financial advisor and professor, and his attorney mother drafted the
Minnesota legislation that launched the charter school movement in the
United States. Steve, a former teacher, leads EverFi’s financial
education thought leadership, directing his enthusiasm, his experience
(honed at AOL, LivingSocial and Coca-Cola) and, yes, his good genes
toward finding new, effective ways to help busy people take advantage of
Steve paused briefly during EverFi’s Financial Literacy Month activities to give The Score some thoughts on financial education, including his keynote at the Consumer Credit Summit at Card Forum and Expo next month in Austin, Texas.
EverFi’s goal of driving financial capability for all ages is supported by many tools the company has created for various age groups. You even offer programs such as Vault to promote financial literacy in elementary school-aged learners. Why do you think it’s necessary to reach out to children at such a young age?
Like so many long-term habits in someone’s life, we see that behaviors and habits around personal finance get started at a very early age. Kids today are bombarded with financial messages and financial decisions more than ever before. Things like “in-app purchases” and “click-to-pay” are, frankly, common terms to a five-year-old. Beyond basic terms, kids need to understand core concepts, like the difference between wants versus needs. We try to meet kids where they are from a cognitive point of view in order to address what they are already seeing—earlier than ever—in the real world.
EverFi puts great emphasis on promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) with students. What is the correlation between these school subjects and maintaining good financial health?
There are some obvious correlations and also not so obvious examples. As a more intuitive example, understanding a financial transaction—even when using just cash and getting correct change back—indeed requires math skills—at least subtraction. Computing compound interest is more sophisticated math, but nevertheless requires algebraic concepts like variables and polynomial functions. But the impact of technology is the next set of dots to connect. Technologies like big data, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics are transforming the financial sector already, and we need to be educating our kids on these concepts to stay competitive as a country. Keep in mind that some FinTech companies are being started by young adults that are still in high school! An important ingredient to financial health is certainly a solid understanding of STEM topics.
What does EverFi’s research show about the Millennial generation and its spending habits that could give the financial services industry insight on how to approach them and meet their needs?
First of all, the concept of “money” has been incredibly abstracted in the last 10 years, and it is becoming more abstract. Physical cash will continue to play a role in a millennial’s life, but it will be an increasingly small one. This can be good in that liquidity, tracking, and flexibility of transactions have been greatly improved, but it’s also troublesome in that it is difficult to have healthy habits for intangible and ethereal elements of your life. We see that millennials are willing—and good—at saving money, but also want to attach greater meaning to the brands they interact with. Financial institutions need to communicate a greater societal good—they need to humanize, stop using jargon, and empower millennials to have a more self-serve experience than what is out there today.
Can you offer some examples of financial education resources you’ve created for financial institutions and how effective they have been?
At EverFi, we have programs for children, young adults, millennials, working adults, and those about to retire. We are also working on a program for prevention of elder financial abuse, which will come out later this year. We work with over 800 financial institutions across the country and have built over 100,000 customized financial education programs that serve those different audiences. All of our programs are “white labeled” to our partner’s brands—not EverFi’s brand—so you may have already come across one of our programs without even knowing it. In terms of effectiveness, we measure our programs constantly from a pedagogy point of view and are improving the platform on a weekly basis. As an example of results, our high school program does pre- and post-course assessments, and we see an 87% knowledge gain—that is, understanding of basic personal finance topics—directly due to our course. We are extremely proud of that number, but always working on ways to take it even higher.
Have you ever had your kids test any EverFi financial education tools, and if so, what valuable feedback have you received from them?
Of course they have! They really liked the interactivity and the games we have in our courses. Their favorite learning modules were our Credit Card module and our Savings module. They also thought some of the humor in the courses was really funny, but also were convinced that I wrote some of the less funny “Dad jokes.” Their feedback actually jibes with some of the data we collect from platform usage: we have millions of students going through the platform each year, and the data from each user helps to shape our future versions.