Financial Literacy

Educating Youth Key to Changing American Spending Habits

Too many Americans have troublesome spending habits.

They use credit cards to pay for basic daily necessities, and they aren’t saving enough to create a retirement nest egg.

That’s not exactly a news flash, but here are some numbers to put the situation in perspective:

American household debt totaled $12.84 trillion in the second quarter of 2017 – up $552 billion from the previous year, and 14 percent higher than it was during the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, a period that most adult Americans now look back on as “the worst economic period” in their lifetimes.

How can this trend of increasing indebtedness be reversed?

How about some “Budget 101” for American teenagers.

How about if parents gave teens a budget for going to the prom – and then didn’t let them exceed that dollar figure?

How about if kids played financial games online?

Sound too simplistic?

Maybe not.

One financial advisor from Washington State thinks these ideas are part of the solution that may change the spending habits of the next generation of Americans – and in doing so, perhaps loosen the debt stranglehold the country finds itself in.

“The millennials and kids today like that approach,” William Morrissey, president of Sound Financial Planning, Inc., said of the increasing presence of gamification within financial education. “It gets them engaged. They like it. And if they can learn something from that experience, then I am all for it.”

His firm has two offices – one in Mount Vernon, Washington, an agricultural and bedroom community to the greater Seattle area in Western Washington – and one in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the second largest of the series of islands hugging the state’s shoreline and a highly visited tourist destination with a robust year-round population of retirees.

The prom budget scenario is one Morrissey believes would resonate with today’s teens.

“It is relevant to their lives,” he said. “They would gain an understanding of the value of money through that type of experience.”

bill500Morrissey believes financial education from a young age – as early as elementary school will cover a lot of territory in changing the financial attitudes of the next generation.
So does his partner, Tammera Prouty CFP®.

Prouty’s been with Morrissey for nearly two decades and became a partner a couple years ago. She leads the firm’s pro bono financial education work at Mount Vernon High School where she works in conjunction with the local affiliate of the national Junior Achievement program.

The curriculum she works through with the students includes topics such as budgeting, career preparation, credit scores – and what they mean for financial security and potential employment – investing, personal finance basics and saving.

“I see the students involved in this training as being ahead of the game, and I really appreciate that the high school now offers a few different finance classes for its students,” Prouty said.
The reactions students have toward her presence there and the presentations she makes to them make her effort feel worthwhile.

“It really is great to see how much the students like this topic. They always have great questions and sometimes they even ask questions that stump me. They are already becoming highly knowledgeable in financial issues they will face as adults,” she said.

Prouty also said that many of the current students were old enough to understand the personal implications of the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. They have told her they watched as family members lost jobs or homes, and they want to find practical ways to avoid that same fate.

Giving back to the community is also a value Morrissey demonstrates. His first wife died from breast cancer in 1991 when his sons were ages 10 and three. He is assisting the Foundation for Financial Planning with the development of volunteer training for financial planners who will assist those impacted by cancer. He is also a past president of the United Way in San Juan County helping more than 5,000 families annually with financial needs, and he is a member of the Nazrudin Project – a group of financial advisors that meet to discuss the emotional and psychological issues surrounding financial matters to determine ways to better help their clients.

While the bulk of their clients are people with a half million dollars plus of investable assets, Sound Financial Planning offers its services at no charge – for a predetermined period of time – to the children and grandchildren of those established clients to get them started in the discipline of sound investment and regular savings.

After a long career in commercial and residential real estate in the Seattle area, Morrissey started Sound Financial Planning in 1982 with the principle that financial planning ought to be much more than just investment selection and a transactional relationship.

“It is a waste of time to talk about what investment options to use until we develop a comprehensive plan that addresses all financial areas of their lives,” he said. “Our firm’s approach focuses on increasing our clients sense of financial well being and life satisfaction. We won’t normally take clients that just want us to manage their money. We believe money management is just a part of good financial planning.”

In addition to being a Certified Financial Planner, Morrissey is an Accredited Estate Planner, a member of The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors which is the country’s leading professional association of fee-only financial advisors, a member and past national board member of the Financial Planning Association, and has been published in “Money Magazine,” as well as several newspapers in Western Washington. He has hosted financial planning programs for radio and television.

Learn more about William Morrissey, Tammera Prouty and Sound Financial Planning, Inc., online at


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