LYNN — She works as a branch manager for River Works Credit Union, but Maria Narvaez admits her financial literacy education began only after she started working.
“I didn’t have it in school and I didn’t learn it until I was in the real world,” Narvaez said.
The Lynn resident wants to prepare students for life in the real world, financially-speaking, and River Works sponsors financial literacy programs in 21 schools, including Classical High School and schools in Swampscott and Saugus.
River Works pays for the schools to use “Banzai” financial literacy software allowing students to walk through basic personnel budgeting lessons and understand basic financial concepts like savings and credit.
“We want kids to have an understanding of financial literacy. It has got to start somewhere,” Narvaez said.
Classical social studies teacher Gregory Washington brought Banzai into Classical almost five years ago when the former auditor realized his students failed to grasp basic financial concepts. He recalled speaking with students who had graduated high school, but dropped out of college because they failed to properly budget higher education expenses.
Washington said Classical Principal Gene Constantino quickly embraced financial literacy and the school’s juniors and seniors can take a financial literacy class spanning five hours a week and lasting half the school year.
Banzai teaches students financial literacy basics, but it also allows them to work through spending and savings scenarios using Banzai’s computer models. Narvaez said the scenarios include factoring an unanticipated automotive expense into a personnel budget and costing big-ticket expenses like attending a prom.
Narvaez said the Banzai computer lessons are more engaging than traditional finance lessons.
“Chalkboards don’t cut it any more,” Narvaez said.
The basic lesson Washington teaches his Classical students is the “Rule of 72,” a time-honored method for calculating how fast interest accumulates and debt shrinks. He knows the lessons he teaches using Banzai may not register with students for several years until they rent their first apartment or start their first job.
“It doesn’t really have anything to do with them now. My goal is, down the road, can they understand this when it really pays off?” he said.