Tim Ranzetta’s financial education started when he was in elementary school, but it didn’t happen in any classroom. Instead, he learned about money on snow days. As other kids slept in or tuned in to The Price Is Right, Ranzetta would wrap himself in his warmest winter gear and grab a shovel from his garage. Then he’d trudge from door to door, selling neighbors his snow-shoveling services.
“For me, a snowstorm wasn’t a holiday,” he says. “It was a business opportunity.”
During the ensuing decades, Ranzetta’s businesses grew more ambitious, from driving a shredding truck to consulting to founding startups. He felt that early exposure to financial education, however informal, had helped him navigate early adulthood. So in 2010, he volunteered to teach a personal finance class at a high school near his home in Palo Alto, California. But when he searched for lesson plans online, the information seemed like it hadn’t been updated since he was scraping his neighbors’ driveways clear in the 1970s. “What kid is going to care,” he remembers thinking, “about balancing a checkbook?”
In fact, financial education had stagnated during much of Ranzetta’s lifetime. If you’re slightly skeptical of TikTok, if you had to Google the definition of “cheugy,” or if you still use the crying laughing emoji (😂) daily—in other words, if you’re in your 30s—you probably didn’t take a financial education course in high school. Before 2000, only four states required students to take one in order to graduate. Which means you probably didn’t learn about budgeting, taxes, or credit in a high school classroom.
“I was really lucky,” said Ranzetta, who founded and helps run Next Gen Personal Finance, a nonprofit that provides free financial training for students and teachers. “My dad was a banker. He taught me about money. My parents were middle class. But for too many kids today, financial literacy is a real problem. Our mission is to make sure that every student in the country is guaranteed a semester-long personal finance class through their public school.”