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Empowering Youth with Financial Literacy: The Journey of House Bill 4199 in Massachusetts

Navigating the tumultuous waters of personal finance can seem daunting, especially for high schoolers on the brink of adulthood. Host Ally Houghton, teamed up with Representative Ryan Hamilton on TSB Money Matters to discuss the transformative potential of House Bill 4199. This bill isn’t just a piece of legislation; it’s a lifeline to financial competency for the Commonwealth’s youth. We reminisce about our own educational paths, marked by a void in financial mentorship, and weigh the heavy costs of financial missteps in the lives of young adults. Our talk isn’t just theory; it’s a testament to the power of knowledge, with the aim to arm the next generation against the debt that can derail their futures.

The journey to making financial literacy a reality in Massachusetts is riddled with challenges—tight budgets, scarce teaching resources, and potential institutional resistance. Yet, our episode is imbued with optimism, buoyed by the support of local financial stalwarts and curriculum providers, all rallying behind this critical cause. We navigate the legislative labyrinth that can turn the bill into a beacon of hope for students, ultimately casting an eye to a horizon where we can celebrate the financial awakening of an entire generation. Join us as we lay down the groundwork for a future where financial literacy is not merely an option, but a cornerstone of high school education in Massachusetts.

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Ally Houghton: 0:00
Welcome to TSB Money Matters, brought to you by the Savings Bank, where we dive deep into the dynamic world of banking, finance and everything in between. I’m your host, allie Houghton, and we’ll tackle topics including landscape of financial institutions, economic trends and the ever-evolving technology shaping the future of banking. Today, we are joined by Representative Ryan Hamilton to discuss the House Bill 4199, an act relative to personal finance. The bill, sponsored by Rep Palimansan, would make financial literacy class mandatory for high school students graduating the Commonwealth. Thank you for joining me.

Ryan Hamilton: 0:33
Thank you for having me. It’s a great topic, great to talk about and something we have some good news on, so happy to share that today.

Ally Houghton: 0:40
Very timely and important, absolutely. You know it’s a great topic for kids to understand and you know, like I said, it has been a topic for a few years now. A few years ago, the governor did sign in where it was going to be part of the curriculum, but not as mandatory as we’re talking about now. When did you know that this was really something that needed to be pushed even more?

Ryan Hamilton: 1:02
You know I really about it when I was a kid. You know, growing up and attending, you know, massachusetts public schools from K through college. You know I really never had experience. It was never really. There were a couple classes where I went to high school, but it wasn’t enough in my opinion and there weren’t enough kids taking it to really make an impact and really give them the tools to succeed later in life. Right, you know, at this current moment, you know we’re asking kids to make really important financial decisions whether that’s student loans, renting apartments, cars, credit cards you know, at very young ages, and we’re not giving them the tools to succeed right now. So that’s really, you know it started up very early and then, once you know I became a rep, it really evolved into okay. Now I’m in a position to actually change this and, you know, give the kids of today something that I didn’t have and something that they need.

Ally Houghton: 1:56
So that’s one very important thing that you saw after you graduated high school, that you kind of looked back and was like, wow, I really needed to know more about that.

Ryan Hamilton: 2:03
Yeah, I mean just one, just how expensive life is, and that’s just a. That’s a. That’s a general topic nowadays but really you know student loans and credit cards, I think were the big thing you know. Unfortunately, I know some friends that you know made decisions to go to certain colleges not understanding the financial impact that would that that would have on them once they got out of college in terms of, you know, not being able to take an unpaid internship that might be really good for their future because you got to pay your student loans.

Ryan Hamilton: 2:33
Whereas I know some friends who went, you know, the local community college route and then to a state school, who now have that financial flexibility where they don’t have to go out and make $80, $90,000 to afford their lifestyle.

Ryan Hamilton: 2:45
They can go out and make, you know, 30 or 40 for a year or two and set them on a path that’s going to, you know, take them to a really high paying, successful job in the next three to four years. So you know just the financial flexibility that comes with your understanding of financial. You know the financial institution in general is huge and something that you know. Growing up in Mthuin and Haverill, you know being very blue collar, you know middle class, you know there is, you know there’s not a lot of money running around up there in terms of you know you, if you make a really important, really bad financial decision for yourself, it could affect you for 10, 20, 30 years and I’ve seen that happen and I really want to be part of the solution to prevent that and at least give people the tools to understand the impact that decisions they’re making.

Ally Houghton: 3:34
Yeah, and a lot of these students probably don’t even understand the length of time these loans are going to be for, or really even the understanding of, depending on what career they’re getting into, there may be other schooling down the road that they’re going to have to pay for. So they kind of jump into it, not with any education, before they sign those loans.

Ryan Hamilton: 3:51
Exactly, nope, 100% right. It’s funny. My mom always says my mom was a teacher up in the Merrimack Valley and she she always says she said to my sister who wanted to knew from a very early age she wanted to become a teacher.

Ryan Hamilton: 4:02
She’s like just to let you know you don’t need to go to Harvard to become a teacher she’s like, because your teacher’s a great job, she loves it, it’s one of the most rewarding and important careers we have and unfortunately, teachers aren’t making $250,000, even though they probably should, considering they are. They have the future of the of the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in their hands. But therefore, you know, don’t go to a school where you’re going to have $150,000, $200,000 student loans, because not only is your salary gonna be very tough to get rid of those, but also you have to go get your masters anyway. So you know just, and it was really helpful for my sister to have that knowledge. But unfortunately, I know some people who don’t and have taken career paths that are super rewarding and that are very important, but unfortunately they’re in so much debt where they feel as though they have to leave the career that they love in order to pay the bills.

Ally Houghton: 5:00
Right, yeah, and unfortunately that’s, I think, a lot of people that don’t understand what they’re getting into at that point in life. But you know a lot of kids may be thinking how is a bill like this that, if it goes through, how is it gonna change my high school career? And if this does pass, what will change for kids in school?

Ryan Hamilton: 5:17
Yeah. So, like you said off the top of the bat, I mean you’re gonna, you are going to have to take a half of a year financial literacy course to start, and where I think that really changes things is so it’s not only about the curriculum, which is gonna be great. It’s gonna teach everything from balancing a checkbook, which I don’t know if people even have checkbooks anymore.

Ally Houghton: 5:37
I still do, but a lot of my friends say they don’t Credit card debt.

Ryan Hamilton: 5:42
With that about student loans, emerging technology, investing, all this great stuff that we should know, but also the big thing is it really it’s gonna start the conversation. It’s gonna start the conversation amongst themselves, it’s gonna start the conversation with their elders, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, of just talking about money. Unfortunately, money sometimes is a taboo subject in families and really our goal here is again not only to give them the knowledge, hopefully, that they can make decisions ourselves, but to really just be comfortable and open about talking about it, because I’m a firm believer when we talk about things, better solutions arise from those conversations. So that’s, I would say those are really the two main things. And you know, because, as I like to say, it’s more of the long term than just the short, because a half year course is it gonna teach you everything? Right, it’s not.

Ally Houghton: 6:37
I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not.

Ryan Hamilton: 6:41
And we have to be understanding of that. But hopefully it plants the seed, hopefully it gives them, you know, as I like to call it, the light bulb effect of like man. This was really helpful, but I wanna learn more and also, you know, our course will provide them with resources of where to, you know, investigate more as they get older, because I’m a firm believer that the learning process doesn’t stop when you get out of school. So you know, there’s a lot of great things that are gonna come for this once we get it, once we get it passed.

Ally Houghton: 7:09
Yeah, and you brought up the comment of starting a conversation, which I think is a great thing to say, because if you look at a lot of families and parents, they don’t have financial backgrounds. They don’t. That wasn’t how they were brought up, that’s not what they went into for their career and maybe they don’t have the understanding of this to teach their kids. So if their kids are now learning this and passing that information up to the parents, how is that gonna just spread like an unbelievable wealth of knowledge?

Ryan Hamilton: 7:35
Yep 100%, and it’s one of those things too, once that starts to spread, once we have adults asking more questions that’s when we partner with people like you, with banks, with our financial institutions, to host meetings and public forums and have these conversations. Because, you know, unfortunately you know there will be a cutoff Once we get this instituted and certain people who have already graduated high school will not be able to take this course. But again, that doesn’t mean we still can’t provide them with resources that help them as well. So it’s really gonna be a great domino effect, I think, to make us all just more knowledgeable when it comes to, you know, financial institutions.

Ally Houghton: 8:12
Yeah, and research has shown, like you know, people that are more knowledgeable in the financial literacy aspect. It leads to so much more than just knowing how to control your own finances. It leads to so much more economic growth, wouldn’t you say?

Ryan Hamilton: 8:24
Absolutely, absolutely. More people may be more comfortable with investing because, you know, I know some people who have contacted me about this bill saying, you know, I wish I had this because you know, I trusted this company to invest my money and they lost it all and they probably weren’t a good actor and I just didn’t have the financial. You know, I didn’t have the financial knowledge to understand that they were selling me. You know, something that probably I shouldn’t have been investing in and stuff like that and they’re like I really wish you know that would have saved me, you know, a couple thousand dollars in that investment had they not do that. So it’s been. You know, it’s been really a great experience and process just hearing the life lessons from people who are like who, again, this would not impact them directly because they’ve been long gone out of school, but they’re like man, I wish I had that yeah, so.

Ally Houghton: 9:13
So as you have been out there talking about the bill, I’m sure you’ve been talking to a lot of current high school students, and maybe some they’ve just recently graduated. What is their point of view like? Do they really feel like this is something that needs to be pushed forward more?

Ryan Hamilton: 9:26
Yeah, absolutely. I mean we had a, we had a hearing on this bill and and, as you were there and you saw, I mean we had what probably 30 or 40 High school students that were passionately Testifying about the need for this. And again, these are students who are, in my opinion, some of the most selfless students You’d ever see because, again, this probably is not going to impact them, but they want to have, they want to have this conversation, they want to get this done so that the those who come after them can really Experience this program and and and have it benefit them. So, you know, it’s been great working with them. You know we’ve Really unlocked a network of people who really love financial literacy and the students are one of them.

Ryan Hamilton: 10:08
We had our students push Resolutions at the school committee level and both Lowell and Chelsea and those school committees, both past resolutions supporting this bill and and talking about how necessary it is, and that was all Student run, that was all student pressure. And you know, there, like we were talking about earlier, I mean this this generation of students is so politically active and so, you know, will deaf is, is not afraid to get in front of you know people in power and tell them you know how they want things to go, and in a very respectful way, but and and also be part of that political process. So it’s, it’s honestly.

Ally Houghton: 10:49
It makes you feel better for the future of our country, having seen, you know, young people so involved absolutely the passion that they had for this bill and just their understanding of how much better kids would be Going on into life Knowing this was amazing. Yeah, was amazing. And they can stand there and say, you know, I didn’t get this, but this is so important for the future and this is why they need to know it. It was. It was great to have those kids stand up there and say that and really, you know, really Advocate for for all the others and and a lot of the stories did you know, have some?

Ally Houghton: 11:25
You know some talk about how it wasn’t something their parents knew, so it wasn’t passed on to them and and now they feel like they need to start this, this cycle, this conversation, like you said, it’s that’s really impressive to see at that age of students. You know, with financial literacy classes now, in business classes there, there, there are some, but you know it isn’t really an option for all kids to take them. They’re an elective. Kids do take them, but do you think, like you know, if we’re offering them earlier where? So I assume if it, if they have to take them for one semester, it’s anywhere in the four years of high school.

Ryan Hamilton: 12:08
So our bill is specifically would be your junior or senior year? Okay, yeah, okay.

Ally Houghton: 12:12
What so I was gonna say if they were access to them earlier in their high school career, do you think that would open up the door for maybe more classes to lead on to different levels of this and get more experience?

Ryan Hamilton: 12:23
Yeah, so this is something we’re actually working with the superintendent up in my city, methuen. We met with her and introduced her to someone who has a lot of financial literacy, curriculum and stuff like that, from high school all the way down to, I think, look, second, third grade. So she’s actually gonna start a program not only in the high school but but younger and Kind of be our, as I like, our, kind of pilot program in terms of you know the follow-up steps, because I’m with you, you know I a one, one course for you know Four or five months during the school years is not gonna be, is not gonna suffice, right, but it’s a start. Yeah, but you know I’m really looking forward to the you know the data that’s gonna come out of that and how it was instituted and how and the results we get from it, from our superintendent, to really move forward and possibly a future bill and introducing more financial literacy at a younger age, because you know we don’t want to overwhelm students either and giving them that those building blocks from you know fifth, sixth grade onwards into high school, I think would be great.

Ryan Hamilton: 13:25
Obviously, the difficult and you know something that she’s balancing is in. You know she’s starting this program next year. But is you know, there’s only so many hours in the day.

Ryan Hamilton: 13:33
There’s only you know you can only hire so many teachers with the budget you have, so it will be really interesting and something. Maybe I’ll have to come back sometime next year and talk about how that’s been instituted and kind of the results we’re seeing from it, because I couldn’t agree with you more. The goal with this bill was to really give us a benchmark while also giving schools some flexibility on when to institute the program.

Ally Houghton: 13:54
Do you think there would be any pushback from districts or desi or unions when it comes to you know? Does this bill mean it’s going to be bigger costs for districts? Are they going to have to hire more? Are teachers going to have to take more on, do you? Think there’ll be any pushback there.

Ryan Hamilton: 14:08
You know there always is Good thing in Mthuin is we actually hook them up with someone who offers free curriculum, which is huge, because obviously there is a cost to ever.

Ally Houghton: 14:18
you know when there is a cost that makes it difficult.

Ryan Hamilton: 14:21
We’ve talked with a lot of our teacher unions and they’ve been very supportive because you know the goal was, you know we want everyone around this table making you know these decisions on how best, to you know, roll this out.

Ryan Hamilton: 14:35
You know, like I said, my mom’s teacher, my sister’s a teacher, my aunt’s actually a financial literacy teacher. So we wanted to make you know we didn’t want to. We don’t want inconvenience, we don’t want a further burden on our teachers. You know they have a lot on their plate, as is, but they and the teachers union have really understood the importance of financial literacy and how. You know we’re really really falling behind the rest of the country in terms of what we do here in Massachusetts and I think they understand the. You know how we really need to move quickly, I guess, in this, and they’ve been supportive, which is good, because you know there’s always roadblocks. There’s always people who, you know, want different things in a bill. So we’ve tried to make it as all-encompassing as we could, while also making sure it’s as effective as it should be.

Ally Houghton: 15:20
Yeah, you said different people helping with different free programming and everything. Financial institutions have kind of had that framework in place for a number of years to provide that educational framework. How much support have you found that you’ve received from the local financial institutions of pushing this forward?

Ryan Hamilton: 15:36
Yeah, it’s been. I mean it’s been fantastic. I mean we. So we, our bill was immediately sponsored and supported by the mass bankers association, which was fantastic. You know, I was up in Mithuan last Friday. We had our credit for life fair and we talking about not only do we have the fair, but I got the opportunity to talk about the kids with the bank manager of our local community bank up there. So it’s been, it’s been great. The financial institutions have been fantastic. I’ve been offered nothing but support from everyone and again, not only support in terms of their voices, but also resources as well, which is huge, because if we want to institute this properly, we’re going to need our local banks in every community. You know, to pitch in, maybe financially or maybe just from a support perspective, and really make this. You know, make this work in every community, because every community is different, every community has different resources financially, from a budgetary perspective. So we have to. We have to do what we can.

Ally Houghton: 16:33
Yeah, so we had mentioned earlier that this bill was presented to the Joint Committee on Education in early January. Where do we go from here?

Ryan Hamilton: 16:41
Yeah. So right now, I am happy to report that the bill got ruled out favorably once, but it needs to be redrafted first. So from there we have to keep pushing and hopefully get it on a floor vote in both the House and the Senate and if we can get it for a floor vote both there is get it passed there. Then we get the governor to sign it. So that’s really the big part right now is waiting for the language to come out yeah, see the changes that were made and then start pushing our committee chairs and some of our leadership in both the House and the Senate to get it out, which is always good, you know, because I want to say about 15,000 bills were filed this session Absolutely crazy.

Ryan Hamilton: 17:26
Not the record. The speaker told us it wasn’t the record but that it was pretty dang close. So you know it just shows you how many important and how many really good bills there are. So when I say push, I mean you know email, you know talk to lobby, you know the whole all of it. You know in a very respectful way, because you know, as I can say, this is a pretty new bill, so you know there’ll be a lot of bills that are probably in front of it, but I’m a firm believer that we can get this done and hopefully get this done sooner rather than later.

Ally Houghton: 17:59
That is amazing, amazing. So if this did go through Massachusetts, it would be the 26th state with a bill like this.

Ryan Hamilton: 18:05
I believe so it might even be 27. Now it keeps because when we first filed this bill I think it was we’d be the 25th state. So unfortunately, we keep falling further and further behind, which is what is? The other good part is that a lot of states are adopting this.

Ally Houghton: 18:20
So you know the other states are adopting this, as you had said, and they’re seeing this how important this is at a state level. At what point do you think this needs to be taken up federally?

Ryan Hamilton: 18:31
Yeah, I mean, you know it would be great. Unfortunately, as we know, Washington is Washington and things take their. I mean things take a very long time in Washington and trying to get everyone on the same page is always very difficult. But you know, it would be nice for every state in the nation to have financial literacy and that all of our you know, everyone here, everyone in the United States, you know learns more about their financial institutions and how to make better financial decisions. But right now, I think you know we really gotta focus on Massachusetts and then I think, once we get through Massachusetts you know I used to work for Congresswoman Johanna up in Lowell I’m happy to put a little birdie in Hurry Air to start pushing this at the federal level. But we gotta take care of mass first.

Ally Houghton: 19:16
Yeah, and it looks like we’re going that route.

Ryan Hamilton: 19:18
Yeah, definitely.

Ally Houghton: 19:19
We’re going definitely a good way. If people wanna learn more about the bill and what it means and what would be included in it, where can they find that?

Ryan Hamilton: 19:26
Yep, so you can find that at the Statehouse website. So specifically you could type in the docket number of the bill and then we’ll give you everything. Also, a good way is just to reach out to my office. You know my email is ryanhamilton at mahousegov. Happy to talk to people about the bill, answer any specific questions they have, but and also happy to send a hard copy through email of the bill as well. I would say those are the two best places to look.

Ally Houghton: 19:53
And if people wanna show their support and get out there and really advocate for this and help push it forward, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Ryan Hamilton: 20:00
So there’s two really good ways. So one way is you could testify, which already happened, so unfortunately you can’t do that. But the other way is you know, email your local reps and senators and ask them, of course politely, to co-sponsor the bill. That’s you know, that’s people you know. When you have a bill that’s co-sponsored by 80 reps and you know 24 senators, I mean that just really shows you know everyone and that we have a great coalition and that we.

Ryan Hamilton: 20:30
This bill has a lot of support. So that’s and you know the amount of bills that I’ve co-sponsored just from getting residents and put on it and just you know a quick email saying you know, hi, rep Hamilton, I think this is a great bill to co-sponsor. It’s, you know, house number 1121 on you know whatever topic. That’s great because the way I’ve always been and I’ve kind of focused on some subject areas and usually co-sponsor those bills. But there’s a lot of bills that I’m not co-sponsored on. That are great bills. So when I but when I get that email from the constituent hearing about how that bill is important to their life and them, then I’ll definitely look into it more and usually you know co-sponsor it Because, like I said, there’s 15,000 bills and you can’t co-sponsor all 15,000.

Ryan Hamilton: 21:20
That’s just you know that your support doesn’t mean as much, you know, when you’re co-sponsoring every single bill. So but you know again all the reps that I work with, they really care about what their constituents, email them about and care about. So that’s the best way to do it, in my opinion, is to you know, testify publicly or email your rep and senator and tell them you know this is important to me, I think we, I think I would appreciate you signing on to it.

Ally Houghton: 21:47
Yeah, well, your passion for this bill is very clear. Yeah, you know, and it. I think it’s such a huge step forward for the education in our commonwealth and for kids and just going on into life and what they’ll learn, and it’s great for you have brought this forward and really pushed for it, because I think it’s very important and maybe not something that people would necessarily think of right away.

Ryan Hamilton: 22:09
Yeah, absolutely.

Ally Houghton: 22:10
So to start this conversation, I think it’s just amazing and awesome Anything else you’d like to say to kind of encourage people to learn more about this or just even get out there and find some different financial literacy opportunities?

Ryan Hamilton: 22:23
Yeah, I mean, I would say the best way to find more opportunities is really, you know, contact your local bank.

Ryan Hamilton: 22:29
You know you all have so many resources that you can point them in the right direction, to, you know, to help them. And another thing is, again, keep having this conversation, because a lot of people when they hear financial literacy, they already think, oh, we don’t have that or that’s not in home economics anymore. So, you know, just educating people and telling them about this bill and telling them about the movement we’re creating and hopefully they can get involved. And you know, we’re really building a grassroots movement here that is going to propel this bill over the finish line and it’s been a lot of fun so far and we’re going to keep the pressure on. So, you know, anyone who wants to get involved again, please email me, reach out to your local banks and they can get in touch with me or find you my contact information, whatever is best, Because we want you part of the team, we want you pushing with us.

Ally Houghton: 23:17
Yeah, well, thank you so much for joining us today.

Ryan Hamilton: 23:19
Oh, thank you and.

Ally Houghton: 23:20
I really hope that you know. Maybe in a few years or so we can come back here and talk about how much it was a success.

Ryan Hamilton: 23:26
That’s it, we can and how great it is and how great it is yes, yeah, and how great it is going for high schools and students and get their point of view on how lucky they are that we got this in Massachusetts. Absolutely.

Ally Houghton: 23:37
But thank you so much for joining us.

Ryan Hamilton: 23:39
Yeah, no, thank you for having me and again, thank you for all the help that you’ve been in pushing this forward and you know it’s been a great process and it’s been great to work with you and hopefully you know we’ll keep doing it and get it over the finish line.

Ally Houghton: 23:51
Absolutely so. I want to thank everybody for listening today, and you have listened to the TSB Money Matters brought to you by the Savings Bank and we will be back soon with another episode.

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