FiAT, or Financial Aptitude Training, is incorporated in Burlingame, CA, and is a 501 (c)(3) organization. It is classified by the IRS as a charitable organization.
What is Financial Literacy?
Personal financial literacy is more than just being able to balance a checkbook, compare prices, or get a job. It also includes skills such as long-term vision and planning for the future, as well as the discipline to use those skills every day.
Financial literacy is "the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being" (2008 Annual Report to the President).
In the US, we make great efforts to teach children to read and write, but we don't give their financial literacy the same attention. As a result, few young people know how to to manage their personal financial lives.
It All Started with an Idea
In July of 2014, FiAT (previously Pay It Forward Bay Area) hosted its first Financial Literacy Summer Camp program for youth. The program was supported by donations from parents, local business owners, the local clergy, and the primary benefactor was LFS Asset Management.
FiAT partnered with Junior Achievement to develop the one-week Financial Literacy Summer Camp, and the program was held at St. Matthew’s Ward Hall on El Camino Real in San Mateo.
It all started with an idea: to educate the youth of San Mateo about financial literacy. This idea turned into a vision, which led to a plan. The plan turned into a success by teaching more than 20 teenagers the importance of finance.
Students learn budgeting, taxes, capital market, cash management, and are taught how to apply their skills and interests to help them navigate toward a potential career or education path. The sessions are interactive with activities, games, group projects and work books.
Through financial literacy, FiAT is committed to restoring America’s financial independence - one student at a time.
Jessica is responsible for the program's overall direction, planning, and execution. She has experience working in the education field. Jessica has spent three years teaching in an elementary school classroom and has the knowledge needed for teaching strategies for financial literacy. Jessica graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor's degree in Integrated Educational Studies and a master's degree in Curriculum and Development.
Jessica has experience in creating and adjusting curriculum to fit the audience's levels and needs.
Financial Literacy Director/
Becca is responsible for creating the curriculum and facilitating the program for the week-long sessions, as well as helping to market and plan. She holds a Series 65 license and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™.
Matthew Lau is responsible for creating the curriculum and facilitating the program for the week-long session, as well as helping to market and plan. He is a graduate of Santa Clara University, holds a Series 65 license (Investment Adviser Representative), and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional.
Business Development Advisor
DebbieLee Ruiz is FiAT's Business Development Advisor. She has been involved in the nonprofit world for over eight years in a variety of positions for clients such as National Diversity Coalition, the National Asian American Coalition and the NWFL Ronald McDonald House of Charities.
Ms. Ruiz has a daughter in university and makes Florida her home state.
To provide a free and quality financial education to communities, allowing adults and youth to learn new life skills and become financially independent.
A Problem Worth Solving
A Look at the Numbers
20% of Americans do not save any of their annual income (CNBC).
Only 24% of millennials demonstrate basic financial literacy, and half of the American households currently live paycheck to paycheck (The National Endowment for Financial Education).
56% of millennials don’t have any money saved in a retirement account (PurePoint Financial).
39% of both Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers have nothing put away for their golden years (PurePoint Financial).
37% of recent college graduates have been late with a student loan payment at least once in the past year (US Financial Capability).
Student loan debt is now the second-highest consumer debt category - behind only mortgage debt - and higher than both credit cards and auto loans (Forbes).
Due to the lack of financial competency, there is a financial burden placed on the government and, essentially, the taxpayer.
According to the US Bankruptcy Court of California, about 38,172 people filed for bankruptcy in the state. This is a 2.6% increase from the year prior.
The most recent data indicates there is $1.64 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt. 44.7 million Americans with student loan debt, and 11.1% of student loans are defaulted loans.
FiAT focuses on high-quality financial education through partnering with California Society of Certified Public Accountant (CalCPA), Junior Achievement, and wealth management organizations, to create a strong curriculum that is both educational and engaging.
Although FiAT provides a high-quality education, we acknowledge that an education alone is not enough to overcome the negative consequences of poor money management and the disparity in the racial wealth gap, gender pay inequality, or other financial barriers. FiAT nurtures healthy economic habits and behaviors to further encourage a financial well-being. FiAT aims to educate the underserved communities in the California Bay Area.
Why I Founded Financial Aptitude Training
By: John Lau
As a financial professional, I work with clients to help with different aspects of their financial life--income tax planning, estate conservation planning, risk management, and portfolio management. A major part of my job is to inform and educate so my clients would know what needs to be done and why.
A common theme that emerges from my client conversations is how ill-prepared they are about critical life skills on how to manage money, how to negotiate, or how to communicate. When I dug deeper into it, I started to realize financial illiteracy is a common void in our education system -- schools simply do not teach this important life skill to our kids. I have read many articles and reports about why schools do not include financial literacy in their curriculum. I have talked with educators, and most everyone I talked to agree that financial literacy is a critical life skill. And yet, it continues to be a void. It's a puzzlement to me, frankly. I am beginning to think it is a systemic problem.
Instead of waiting for the system to change, I decided to do what I can to provide financial literacy training to the kids and adults in the community that I live in. That is when I founded Financial Aptitude Training (FiAT). I applied for non-profit status with the IRS, and have been quite fortunate to have gained support from fellow professionals, local businesses, banks, educational institutions, as well as professional organizations such as California Society of Certified Public Accountants.
With time and funding being an issue, we can only offer our program in my own community. With growing support and demands from local high schools (San Mateo High School, Design Tech Charter School), I am both encouraged and convinced that it is a program that people need, so I decided to to provide the funds for a full-time director to help champion the cause. I have found someone with the passion, educational background, and experience for the job. With her heart at the right place, and with the support and guidance of FiAT's advisory committee, I am confident that Jessica (who I am proud to call my daughter) will carry the organization to new heights.