Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg visited Johnson-Brock High School today to recognize students who took first place in the statewide Personal Finance Challenge and to urge all students to learn all they can about personal finances in order to become financially responsible adults.
Members of the winning Johnson-Brock team, all seniors, are Brandie Westhart, Curtis Karel, and Nicholas Behrends. Their teacher is Sylvia Smith. Each student will receive a $2,000 scholarship contribution to a Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST) college savings plan. Treasurer Stenberg is Trustee of NEST.
The Johnson-Brock team ranked 13th out of 20 teams participating in the national Personal Finance Challenge on May 2 in St. Louis.
“One of the lessons of this year’s Personal Finance Challenge is that you don’t have to attend a large school in a big city to be academically successful. All three statewide winning teams were from relatively small communities. Johnson-Brock placed first in the state, West Point-Beemer placed second, and Burwell placed third,” Treasurer Stenberg told high school students at Johnson-Brock.
“The larger lessons in the Personal Finance Challenge are threefold: Follow your dreams, work hard, and don’t give up,” he said. “Whatever your dream, the key to making that dream a reality is to work hard and don’t give up. Continue to work hard especially when the going gets tough.”
As the chief financial officer of the state, Stenberg also urged students to follow one more important piece of advice concerning personal finances. “Don’t spend more than you earn,” he said.
Stenberg’s visit to Johnson-Brock High School was the second of three visits he has planned to recognize Personal Finance Challenge winners and to promote financial literacy education in Nebraska schools. He spoke May 2 at West Point-Beemer High School and will speak May 10 at Burwell High School.
The Personal Finance Challenge competition, now in its seventh year, is sponsored by the Nebraska Council on Economic Education, a non-profit organization that hosts programs, courses, and educator workshops to improve students’ economic and financial literacy. It is housed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has centers at UNL, UNO, UNK, Wayne State College, and Chadron State College.
The competition is a three-part process, starting with preliminary online testing to assess students’ knowledge of money management, credit, spending, saving, and investing. Next, the four teams with the top scores in each of the state’s three regions move on to face-to-face competition at the regional level. There, each team is given a hypothetical set of facts and asked to prepare an oral presentation before judges. After the winning team in each region is selected, the online scores of the three teams are compared to determine the three statewide winning teams. This year’s regional competitions were in Omaha, Lincoln, and North Platte.
“My congratulations go to the winning teams on their excellent presentations in the 2013 Personal Finance Challenge, and my thanks go to the more than 1,000 Nebraska high school students and 60 teachers who participated in preliminary events,” said Stenberg, a judge at the Omaha competition.
“The students impressed me with the quality of their presentations, as well as their depth of understanding of family finances and their poise and strong public speaking skills. They demonstrated a thorough understanding of complicated family financial matters and were able to resolve issues that could have led to family discord,” Stenberg said.
In addition to the $2,000 scholarships for the Johnson-Brock team, each member of the second-place West Point-Beemer team will receive a $1,000 contribution to a NEST college savings plan, and third-place winners from Burwell High School each will receive a $500 contribution to a NEST college savings plan. The NEST scholarships are part of a broader financial literacy initiative being undertaken by Treasurer Stenberg.
“As the chief financial officer for the State of Nebraska and as a parent and grandparent, I am convinced that we must emphasize and promote financial literacy for young Nebraskans,” Stenberg said. “That education will help students and their parents dream for their future and save for their dreams. As students come to understand basic economic and personal finance principles, they will be better able to plan for their own financial futures and lead Nebraska to a bright future,” Stenberg said.
NEST is a tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan and provides four plans to help make saving for college simple and affordable: NEST Direct College Savings Plan, the NEST Advisor College Savings Plan, the TD Ameritrade 529 College Savings Plan, and the State Farm College Savings Plan. The Nebraska State Treasurer serves as Program Trustee. First National Bank of Omaha serves as Program Manager, and all investments are approved by the Nebraska Investment Council. Families nationwide are saving for college using Nebraska’s 529 College Savings Plans, which have more than 261,000 accounts, including 84,000 in Nebraska. Visit NEST529.com and treasurer.nebraska.gov for more information.