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MassMutual teaches 2,000 eighth grade students about financial literacy

Date: 12/18/2014

SPRINGFIELD – The MassMutual Center had an engaged audience of more than 2,000 eighth graders in the arena on Dec. 12 but their attention wasn’t on sports, but rather on financial literacy.

The eighth graders were participating in a program sponsored by MassMutual Financial Group called “The FutureSmart Challenge.” Springfield was last stop for the 2014 program, which has partnered with the National Basketball Association.

Boston Celtics great Satch Sanders appeared along with the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg and the Celtics Dunk Team, but the real message was provided by actor and best-selling author Hill Harper.

Harper, who earned a Juris Doctor and Master in Administration degrees from Harvard University, has written “The Wealth Cure: Putting Money in Its Place” and covered a number of topics about money with the students.

He said that financial literacy is “critical” to learn in middle school.

“That’s when you start your habits,” he explained to Reminder Publications.

He noted that many parents don’t have the correct information about financial literacy themselves.

During his talk Harper brought up topics such as what are the costs to survive, live and thrive; the impact of education and career on a person’s income; understanding the difference between “needs” and wants” the cost of consumer debt; and the importance of saving.

Harper said “rent to own” arrangements for consumer goods preys upon people who generally have the lowest income, “the most vulnerable population.”

He said he spoke to the students about “smart money and “dumb money.” He said most students believe “a dollar is a dollar.”

He added, “But it’s not.”

He explained how people invest money and then use interest rather than the principle.

What he found frustrating has he hosted these events around the country was how the most financially vulnerable people have the least amount of information about money and finance.

Harper praised MassMutual as a corporation that is “giving back” and said the program is “social responsibility at its best.”

The program reached nearly 10,000 middle school student in 2014 and is scheduled to four communities in 2015.

Besides the lesson in finances, the income-eligible families whose children attended the program can apply for Lifebridge, the company’s free life insurance program.