Mass. Banks Collaborate on Virtual Financial Literacy Fair

Eight banks across Massachusetts have formed a partnership to turn a longstanding financial literacy event for high school students into a virtual experience this spring.

The Credit for Life Fair will be available for high school classes through a responsive website, creditforlife.org, that is currently under construction, according to a statement from Credit for Life. The site is being designed by Stackpole & Partners of Newburyport, in collaboration with the Newburyport-based Institution for Savings, Cape Cod 5, Swansea-based BayCoast Bank, Brockton-based HarborOne Bank, Wakefield-based The Savings Bank, Rockland Trust, Westfield Bank, Ware-based Country Bank and FitMoney.org, a not-for-profit financial literacy organization.

The Credit for Life Fair, a half day event where high school students assume the roles of 25-year-old adults and spend their “paychecks” on everything they will need to live, has been a popular event in many Massachusetts public schools for more than a decade. Many banks and credit unions throughout Massachusetts host these events, using local resources and volunteers. The Massachusetts State Treasurer’s Office of Economic Empowerment has encouraged more fairs in recent years by making grants available to schools to participate.

The pandemic brought most of these events to a halt. While several groups, including the North Shore’s Institution for Savings and Andover High School, pivoted to offer virtual fairs, participation was down at both events. Organizers connected last summer to explore collaboration on a better virtual experience in 2021 given the unlikelihood of large in-person events.

They enlisted FitMoney.org, which had given support to both spring fairs through a partnership with New England Patriots player Brandon Copeland, a financial literacy advocate. The group expanded to include other banks that pooled funds to hire Stackpole for the design and implementation of the website, with FitMoney.org serving as fiscal agent.

“One fact that we all agree on was that the Credit for Life Fair is one of the most important and impactful events we do every year,” said Mary Anne Clancy, senior vice president of marketing & communications at Institution for Savings, one of the founding sponsors. “With Massachusetts legislation enacted in 2019 authorizing financial literacy to be taught in public schools, we know educators might appreciate this type of program…so we thought, why not collaborate and deliver one common tool that all schools can use to teach the same lessons?”

The website development is in its final stages and will be tested by a group of educators and others in the next month. The group hopes to have the site ready for use by high schools and others by the end of March. The group is also in the process of establishing a 501(c)(3) that will allow it to raise funds and plan for future school financial literacy initiatives similar to creditforlife.org.

“Our long-term hope is that we can eventually go back to in-person fairs,” said David Floreen, former Massachusetts Bankers Association senior vice president and organizer of Andover High School’s event. “In the interim, this website is a tool that educators and others can use right now, with the support of banks and other community organizations. Teachers are being asked to do so much right now, and this is one way we think we can help.”

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