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The City Journals

Herriman High students arrange financial advice for teachers

Jan 29, 2019 02:59PM ● By Jet Burnham

Business students feel proud of the event they coordinated to help their teachers. (Milie Benker/HHS)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Fifty percent of teachers at Herriman High School say their personal finances cause them stress. Half of them haven’t started any estate planning, while 20 percent still have large amounts of student debt.

These statistics, collected by the school’s FBLA and DECA students, were the inspiration for the projects they have prepared for club competitions that challenge them to identify a problem in their community and creatively solve it.

“When we were looking for a group of people for our project, we thought there wouldn’t be anyone better than teachers,” said Jacob Racker, a senior.

Alexander Hill said students wanted to address the financial issues that lead to teacher shortages and teachers dropping out of the profession. 

“A lot of them want to teach; it's just their finances are in the way,” he said. “We learned all these skills from business classes, but they don't do anything if we don't actually use them, so we’re actually using the skills that we learned in the classroom to help people.”

The students’ solution was to arrange a financial wellness fair. Financial professionals were invited to the school to be available to talk to staff members about estate planning, retirement, general financial advice, investing, insurance and college savings plans.

Elza Morgan, who teaches sewing and design classes at HHS, had been putting off estate planning, believing it would be stressful, complex and expensive. But she felt guilty when she thought of her two young children not being taken care of.

“My husband being a police officer and this not being done has been a stressor for the last three years,” she said.

The event took place at the school during school hours. Morgan was able to step out of her classroom, walk down the hall and meet with an estate planning representative. In less than an hour, she was able to get the help she needed.

“It was pretty easy; that surprised me,” she said. And now that she has begun the process and had her questions answered, she isn’t stressed about it anymore. 

“I just feel so at peace,” Morgan said.

The business students developed their project based on the information they collected by surveying the high school faculty and meeting with them in a focus group.

“With teachers being so open about their finances and personal struggles, we were able to cater this event more toward their needs,” said senior Bailey Burgess.

Students were glad to help their teachers. 

“It is turning the tables because teachers help us with almost everything,” said Burgess, who admits students can’t usually help teachers in return. “I'm just glad I could be part of this group to put on this event to finally give back to teachers that are well-deserved of this.”

The ideas, arrangements and promotion of the event were completely student-driven, said business teacher Julianna Wing, who made sure all staff members were invited to participate.

Students said the best part of the experience was when participants thanked them for the opportunity to improve their lives. Many told them they never would have gotten it done on their own.

Topics related to planning for the future are intimidating for many people, said Robert Ulch, a representative from Jenkins-Soffe Mortuary, who was invited to assist faculty members with funeral planning.

“A lot of people have questions, but they just don’t know who to ask,” Ulrich said. “They realize this is a safe place to ask questions.”

Hill said, according to survey results, help with retirement planning was the most requested service. While teachers have retirement benefits through the state, Ben Smedley, retirement planning adviser for Utah Retirement System said many young teachers put off retirement decisions. He advised all teachers, no matter their age, to be familiar with their options.

Racker said the project utilized the skills they’ve been learning in their classes, such as financial literacy, promotion, partnering with businesses, professional communication, networking and marketing.

“In school, you’re always learning stuff, but you never really get to apply that to the real world,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to get some real-world experience that you wouldn't get in a classroom.”

Students broke the event planning into a focused project for each team to submit for the FBLA and DECA competitions they will attend this spring.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do this big of a project if we only had one group, so we just spread everything out,” said Hill.

Survey results 

52% of teachers feel their retirement plan is adequate

50% of teachers don’t have any estate planning documents

50% of teachers say their finances cause them stress

20% of teachers still have large amounts of student debt

10% of teachers have more than $37,000 in student debt

16% of teachers couldn’t pay for an emergency costing more than $400

50% of teachers couldn’t pay for 36 months worth of expenses in an emergency

35% of teachers have a college savings for their children

14% of teachers always follow a monthly budget

70% of teachers don’t have life insurance

Other stats

Half of adults with debt have mental health issues

People in debt are twice as likely to have major depression

Only one-quarter of employees have attained financial wellness

More than half of employees who are financially unwell have poor financial literacy

People in debt are three times as likely to have mental health issues

61% of stress comes from poor financial wellness

30% of poor overall health is from poor financial wellness

43% of disengagement and distractions comes from poor financial wellness