Do you know the power of financial literacy? With Financial Literacy we can change generational poverty, strengthen families, increase innovation, and make our communities more safe.

Last month I shared the stage with fellow former Bronco and Super Bowl champion, Rod Smith. We went far beyond talking about the new football season or the Broncos’ new quarterback and our favorite memories as players. We are on a bigger team now, one to promote financial literacy in our communities.

We had an incredible conversation around the need for financial literacy and economic education, the individual lessons we’ve learned about making smart money decisions, finding coaches (off the field) to mentor us, and what we hope for future generations.

As Coloradans we have entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, epic sports fans, and unlimited opportunities to achieve our dreams. For these reasons Colorado became home for Rod and me during and after our time as Broncos. Yet, despite Colorado’s entrepreneurial environment, there are currently no statewide graduation requirements for Colorado schools to offer personal finance or economic education classes. In fact, only about 25% of school districts in the state include personal finance in their approved graduation qualifications. We need to do better for Colorado’s future.

Economic Education Month, each October, just concluded and we have a golden opportunity to prioritize teaching these critical life skills — year ‘round.

The median credit-card debt among Coloradans is fourth highest in the nation and the state was given a “C” in financial education by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, which graded all 50 states on their efforts to produce financially literate high school graduates. We need to help future generations be prepared for major life decisions they will face, how to save for the future, and support the next generation.

When Rod and I sat on stage, in a fireside chat style at Economic Literacy Colorado’s fall fundraiser, we urged the audience to equip our young people with life skills that will set them up for success. Some of our key takeaways include:

  1. Chase your dreams but take it slow. One of the hardest things to do as an adult is save money. As two football stars who started making a lot of money at a fast rate, we were tempted to make big-ticket purchases, as was the custom of our peers. But wise people told us: save 40% of your income, and when it comes to a purchase, wait.
  2. Educate youth by taking them with you. Mentoring makes all the difference to a young person. Bring them along with you on a business deal, sit them next to you on Zoom as you negotiate, and show them what you bring to the table. This lights the path for them to do the same.
  3. We don’t know what we don’t know. School is where you go to learn and develop crucial life skills. We need our education system to step up and provide our kids with personal finance and economic education to set them up for future success.

Before Rod and I had our time to speak, we heard from an incredibly inspiring young lady, Trinity Scales, a senior at the Denver School of the Arts. She wants to be a singer and songwriter and I have no doubt that she can achieve anything she sets her mind to.

Trinity recently attended Economic Literacy Colorado’s Invest In Girls summer symposium to meet women in the business and financial industry. She spoke about how meeting these inspirational women showed her that she has other options and career paths she can take to be successful in life as well. Trinity represents our future. We find that no matter their background, young people in our state are eager and ambitious to learn more about the tools they have to reach financial independence. If we can expand access to educational programs, we will change our next generation’s success.

☀ MORE IN OPINION

Join me and Rod, and Economic Literacy Colorado in advocating for students like Trinity. You can do so by:

  • Asking if your child’s school teaches personal finance or economics.
  • Inquiring about the personal finance and economics requirements at your child’s school.
  • Championing economic and personal finance education when talking to others.
  • Mentoring youth and finding a seat for them at the table.
  • Urging your legislators to make economic and personal finance education graduation requirements in schools.

Colorado is the home of so many successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. Let’s make sure our youth are given the opportunity to learn and grow into smart consumers, prepared and productive professionals, all with financial empowerment for years to come.


Ryan Harris, of Westminster, is a board member of Economic Literacy Colorado.

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Ryan Harris

Ryan Harris, of Westminster, is a board member of Economic Literacy Colorado.