High school juniors in the Chicago Public Schools will get a crash course in personal investing starting next fall thanks to a $1.5 million donation from Citadel, the asset management company led and founded by billionaire Ken Griffin.
Citadel COO Gerald Beeson made the announcement Monday at Curie Metropolitan High School on the Southwest Side, telling a room full of students how “financial discipline and financial literacy” helped him rise through the ranks of the multibillion-dollar company.
“It’s important to know at your age how economics work and how governments finance themselves, because the decisions that get made today are not just going to affect your future, but the future of your children,” Beeson said.
The new online curriculum, called MarketWorks, follows a more basic financial literacy course already being embedded into core classes at CPS schools.
Last year, CPS made personal budgeting lessons a graduation requirement for all high school seniors as part of its Career and Technical Education program.
Curie junior Evelyn Molina said she learned how to write a check and keep a monthly budget during a month-long unit in her sociology class this academic year.
“It’s good to learn about stuff that’s going to happen in the real world, so it doesn’t just explode in your face later when you don’t know what’s going on,” said Molina.
MarketWorks will lead students deeper into the world of personal financing than the existing course, teaching concepts like the stock market, investment portfolios, 401(k)s and mutual funds.
Planners of Monday’s event cited data from the Investor Education Foundation suggesting that nearly half of Illinois residents don’t have a “rainy day fund” with at least three months’ worth of income in the bank. Intervening at the high school level will help curb that trend, said Tom Davidson, founder and CEO of Everfi, the technology company whose software CPS uses for its financial literacy classes.
“Every single student’s going to have to deal with student loans or will access a credit card, have a mortgage, or a rent payment or a utility bill,” Davidson said.
Kye-Anne Wilborn, an administrator of the district’s Career and Technical Education program, told students that watching her mother declare bankruptcy pushed her to have a diligent spending and saving habits from an early age.
“We want students to see how investing and saving money work together — it’s not just one or the other,” Wilborn said. “You invest money to save for the future, for that new car or that glorious vacation you want to take.”
Citadel and Everfi are aiming to launch the unit in 160 Chicago schools by 2020, officials said.
Griffin has personally poured tens of millions of dollars into city programs since 2016, including $12 million to separate pedestrian and bike paths on the city’s lakefront and $10 million for crime prevention research through the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab.
Griffin, the wealthiest man in Illinois, has also bankrolled the campaigns of both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner.