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State teachers get personal finance training

David Fletcher

Thirty-seven high school teachers from 25 West Virginia counties attended this year's Finance University, July 21-26, at the Lakeview Resort and Conference Center.

Sponsored by the West Virginia State Auditor's Office, the conference is in its 11th year and brings teachers together to hear experts explain personal finance. These teaches gain knowledge themselves, but more importantly for the state, they bring what they have learned to their students.

David Fletcher, program manager for the project, said State Auditor Glen Gainer III "wants to make sure we provide personal finance training to students and established this ‘train-the-trainer' program to get into the schools and have a direct impact on our high school students."

The WVU College of Business and Economics has participated since the program began, and Dr. William Riley, chairman of the Department of Finance, said the event is an important outreach activity for WVU and B&E.

"What better way to connect and have an impact with the people of our state than to work with high school and middle school teachers?" he commented. "Understanding how to make sound financial decisions is imperative in today's world. Poor financial decisions negatively impact families and individuals for years to come. Teachers are on the front line with our students and have the attention of our young people for several years."

Michael Smith

He said the Finance University is an important way to prepare teachers to teach financial topics in their classes. "I'm amazed at the dedication of the teachers throughout the state. They give up a week of their summer to spend a week strengthening their knowledge of finance topics. It's one of the most gratifying and rewarding activities I participate in."

Among the teachers at this year's event was Michael Smith, who teaches civics and history at Liberty High School in Harrison County. "I'm very impressed," he said. "Speaking from my own experience with my children and my students, I'm afraid they have little or no concept of personal financial matters."

Smith, who received an undergraduate degree in business from Fairmont State University and a master's in education from WVU, said the program has been a "refresher course" for him.  "I think the issues of budgeting and planning are really important for my students," he said. "This is one of the most important things we can teach."

Trina Runner

Trina Runner teaches marketing and personal finance at Bridgeport High School in Harrison County. She had taught there for 25 years and has attended the Finance University six times.  "Since I've implemented personal finance training at Bridgeport, I've seen a huge difference," she said. "Students really are interested in this, especially the topics of investing and retirement."

Runner, who earned degrees from Marshall University and Salem International University, called the event "user friendly" and said it helps her students "see the big picture."

Norma Bowyer teaches at Hampshire High School. She commented that the Financial University "is just like Christmas, there are so many resources."  Bowyer teaches students who are focusing on careers in the health-care profession.

Dr. Naomi Boyd

Dr. Naomi Boyd of the College of Business and Economics spoke to the teachers on the day before the conference ended. She focused on budgeting, investments and retirements.  "It's important to set goals," she told the group. "Then, with these in mind, one must reallocate investments over time."  She said a typical investment strategy for young investors starting out is to have 80 percent invested in stocks and only 20 percent in bonds. Later that might be reversed as retirement gets closer. 

"The time frame determines the types of investments," she said. "Also, it's very important to assess the individual's attitude toward risk over time."

The teachers questioned her about investments in real estate.  Property can be a very good investment, but one must be cautious, she said.  There are positive aspects and also drawbacks.  "Real estate can be a very good strategy, but you have to ask yourself: ‘Am I really making money?'"  Property taxes and other expenses must be taken into account. "Pick and choose carefully," she cautioned. 

Pamela Rabaino

Pamela Rabaino, assistant vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond spoke during the afternoon on emerging payment options.  By this she meant "providing the technology, expertise and flexibility needed to give consumers anytime, anywhere, any device access to their payment accounts, now and in the future."

Rabaino said, for example, that 10 million new users have opted to use mobile phone banking technologies from 2011-12, which is expected to increase to 55 percent by 2016. 

Soon, the traditional magnetic strip credit card will be phased out. The next step is the EMV-enabled card, named for developers Europay, MasterCard and Visa, which have an embedded microprocessor chip that encrypts transaction data differently for each purchase.  These cards make fraud much more difficult. 

Some chip cards require a personal identification number to complete a transaction, while others only require a signature. EMV is widely used in Europe and Asia and is steadily being adopted as the standard type of credit card worldwide. The United States is now poised to adopt this new technology.

Last August, Visa announced initiatives to encourage retailers to accept EMV-enabled cards. MasterCard followed with ideas to encourage U.S. ATM owners to upgrade machines to take the EMV cards by April 2013. And this summer, several credit card companies implemented chip cards to American tourists and business travelers to make overseas purchases easier.

Rabaino also said person-to-person payments, prepaid cards and "virtual currencies" are becoming more prevalent. The payment landscape is evolving because of many factors, she said.  These include technology, globalization, user demands, new entrants into the field and regulations.