Harvard educated award winning actor, Hill Harper has partnered with MassMutual and the NBA for the FutureSmart Challenge. This unique program is teaching “10,000 middle schoolers across the country financial literacy.” Wouldn’t you love the opportunity to learn how to manage money by Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark Tank” investor, Mark Cuban? I know I would! These young men and women are having the opportunity of a lifetime to learn how to be financially secure and not fall into the trap of credit card debt, that so many of us have. Hill was kind enough to join me for an interview recently to discuss the FutureSmart Challenge and why he partnered with MassMutual.
Candace Rose: What is the FutureSmart Challenge?
Hill Harper: “The FutureSmart Challenge is an amazing thing. I’ve partnered with MassMutual to teach over 10,000 middle schoolers across the country financial literacy.
We’re teaching a lot of different pretty high concept things about money and how many impacts their lives, but hopefully doing it in a pretty accessible way and fun way that they connect to the material, and I’m really proud that MassMutual stepped up to support it.”
Candace Rose: Why is it so important to educate kids on financial responsibility?
Hill Harper: “It’s critical and it’s never too young to start. The sad thing is that it’s not taught in schools. They learn biology or chemistry or history, social science, math reading…but not financial literacy.
We all deal with money everyday, and it impacts our current life and it impacts our future and the future of our families. It’s so important and understand the true things about money.
Let’s talk about some of the misconceptions:
- Most of us have been taught that money is a result, in other words…that you need to chase it- chase money, go for the money when it’s actually not a result. It’s just a tool that needs to be used like a hammer pounds a nail. If you can actually put money in its right place and use it in the right way, it can work for you in a way.
- We’ve also been taught that a dollar is a dollar is a dollar, but that’s not true. There are smart dollars and there are dumb dollars. How you use money will impact your life and what you spend it on. If you spend smart dollars, you’re going to have a better prospect and better financial future. When you spend dumb dollars like credit card debt, you’re going to get saddled with debt and it’s going to be very difficult to dig out from that.
Those are just two examples of what we talk about in the FutureSmart Challenge, and we issue this challenge to the young people to become leaders around money and make smart choices about their future.”
Candace Rose: I had a chance to check out the program a little bit last night and it seems amazing. You’ve partnered with the NBA (National Basketball Association), correct?
Hill Harper: “The NBA teams we’ve already visited include the Atlanta Hawks, we’re going to the Phoenix Suns, we’ve done the Dallas Mavericks with Mark Cuban- who gave a great presentation, LA Clippers. So we’ve already been to these NBA teams, and we do it in these arenas across the country where we speak to anywhere from 1500 to 3,000 kids inside these NBA arenas, which is just so much fun for them to come. The NBA teams have really supported it by providing their dance teams or their dunk teams, and so it keeps the kids engaged. It’s a fun way to do it, and we’re really proud of that combination of the teams stepping up with us and the NBA, and allowing us to partner and do this program with them.
And to be underscored, MassMutual stepped and devoted a million dollars to this program. That’s what I call true corporate responsibility saying ‘Listen, we’re going to help financial literacy of our young people, particularly most of these kids are from public schools from these areas, we’re going to help them and we’re going to devote a million dollars to this program.’ That’s why it’s important for me to let people know about it, so they can go visit the website and let MassMutual know that they’re having an impact…because obviously, I want this program to continue. I think it’s valuable and I think MassMutual needs to know that folks want it to continue and it has impact.”
Candace Rose: That’s absolutely amazing, I wish it had been around when I was kid, truthfully.
Hill Harper: “Absolutely. Most of us don’t start saving as adults until we’re well into our thirties, and there is a time value of money. If we had started when we were 11 or 12 years old even small amounts of our allowance or what we earned babysitting or cleaning somebody’s garage or mowing the lawn- that 20 year head start can be transformative and that’s what these kids need to learn.”
Candace Rose: What inspired you to get involved in the FutureSmart Challenge?
Hill Harper: “Well, for me, I have a foundation called the Manifest Your Destination Foundation. It’s all about helping folks achieve their goals and primarily works with people from underserved communities, and I started to find that what they would tell me is the reason why they can’t do this or that, whatever their goal might be is because of money. It reminded me of when I was young and I told folks when I was in public school that I was going to go to Harvard. They said ‘Well, you can’t afford that, you can’t do that.’ There’s all these excuses around money as to why we can’t do things.
There’s also these negative things around money that many families get hit with. Even when you graduate high school you get hit with all these invitations to apply for credit cards, and the next thing you know you’re in credit card debt. Financial literacy is so important on so many levels. One way is to not fall into a trap and the other way is to actually build for a future and use the time value of savings, that’s why I really believe in how transformative it can be.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Hill Harper: “Well, the best thing is to go to MassMutual.com/FutureSmartChallenge. If you go there- number one, you’ll see our curriculum, you’ll see all the things that we’re talking about and how valuable these things are. Number two- just visiting the site shows MassMutual that this is having an impact and it’s an important program to continue.
I’m proud of them, I’m proud of their corporate leaders stepping up for it and I’ll continue to partner with them as long they want to do the FutureSmart Challenge.”