Financial literacy: Something we can all agree on

Every member of Congress agrees on this: financial capability is paramount to our children’s education.  Every single member of Congress has taken a stand to prepare young people for their financial futures through their participation in the SIFMA Foundation's Capitol Hill Challenge program in 2014. The SIFMA Foundation's Capitol Hill Challenge matches our nation's senators and representatives to student
teams competing in The Stock Market Game™.  In 2014, 100 percent of U.S. senators and House members participated in this transformative
educational program.

This 14-week competition among teams of middle and high school students, organized by Congressional district and state, challenges student teams to invest a hypothetical $100,000 in listed stocks, bonds, mutual funds and cash while simultaneously learning the value of saving and investing. Students work together to maximize the return of their portfolio. This year’s winning team, from Canyonville Christian Academy in Oregon, realized an incredible return on investment of over 80 percent.  That is better than the major indices and investment wizards.

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The competition uses the curriculum-based Stock Market Game™ (SMG) to help students develop a better understanding of the global economy, strengthen their personal financial skills and improve their knowledge of math, economics and business.  In fact, an independent study by Learning Point Associates found students who participated in the SMG program scored significantly higher on mathematics and financial literacy tests than their peers who did not. These skills are essential to have in our global economy and it is truly wonderful to have the support of Congress.

The top 10 CHC winning teams receive a paid trip to Washington, DC with their teacher to meet their member of Congress, tour financial and historic landmarks, and learn first-hand about the role of government in fiscal policy making.

CHC offers students and teachers a rewarding and memorable experience. The program offers private and public sector leaders insights to
education. Members of Congress, for example, visit schools and communicate with teams and become advocates for incorporating youth
financial education more formally into the school curriculum, strengthening ties between government leaders and our nation's schools.

Just five years ago, 45 members of Congress took part in the program, but we knew back then it was starting to catch on. By the following
year, we had more than tripled those numbers with 145 Congressional leaders. The  Capitol Hill Challenge has continued to grow each year
and for first time ever, the program engaged all 535 Members of Congress this year.  So, to everyone on the Hill, thank you for recognizing the importance of encouraging students to learn about the financial system in a hands-on manner.

I don’t just write today to thank the members who have made this possible, but more importantly to trumpet the success of the students.
Today, the. SIFMA Foundation is shining a special light on the 10 teams with the highest return on their portfolio.  Those top 10 teams are here in Washington, and over the course of a few days will meet with their member of Congress and be recognized at an awards reception
tonight on Capitol Hill. During their visit, students and teachers will also meet with business, government, and education leaders to learn about fiscal policy making, the role of the capital markets, and global economic trends.

In addition to the students and the Members of Congress, none of this would be possible without the teachers.  These men and women go
above-and-beyond to produce financially capable students, organizing and overseeing their respective teams.  Youth financial capability is a critical area of education that is often overlooked and none of our programs would be successful without the teachers who take the time and make the efforrt to teach it, voluntarily, to their respective students.

We have also learned that the program is beneficial to the teachers. The Learning Point Associates study found that teachers who taught the
Stock Market Game program said the program motivated them to better plan for their future and to engage in financial planning and research. This is proof that teachers' investment in students produces compounding benefits.

The collaboration between Congress, students and teachers, and the SIFMA Foundation and its network partners across the country has been
tremendous and helped the Capitol Hill Challenge reach incredible heights. Since the Capitol Hill Challenge began in 2004, more than 2,200 member of Congress matches have been made to 61,000 middle and high school students in all 50 states.

We aren’t only seeing an increase in the number of participants, but the quality of participation.  I recall just a few years ago former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) went the extra mile and showed up at his school to meet the team and give them personal encouragement.  It was a true treat for the students.  The following year we had a few other members do the same and it is now a part of our program with over 40 such visits taking place this year.

It is on this note that I wish to end.  Once again, thank you to the students, the teachers, and the members for making this possible.  We have seen great success and I urge every member to follow your colleagues and schedule a school visit in 2015and continue to take any
opportunity to encourage students to excel in these critical areas. Together we can foster a thirst for knowledge and love for math, and offer students the tremendous, lifelong benefits of financial capability.

Mortimer is the executive director of the SIFMA Foundation.