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Rock and Bankroll

Musicians teach kids about money in a language they understand.

In the auditorium at Golden Gate High School in Naples on a recent morning, as the last amplified chords faded out from a rock show, seniors rushed the stage, hoping to get a poster or an autograph from one of the musicians. The band members Snapchatted pictures of the audience and took selfies with the students.

Does this look like a lesson in financial literacy? Definitely not. But that’s exactly what it is. And the band’s Trojan horse strategy is very much part of the plan.

“Music makes the medicine go down,” laughs Gooding, the one-name leader and namesake of the band Gooding. They travel the country, hitting high schools and middle schools. (“We’re doing 100 schools between this fall and spring,” he says.)

The band first gets kids’ attention with robust, catchy music. This gets the kids engaged, clapping and cheering in their seats. Then Gooding hits them with lessons about money that they can relate to.

“How many of you want to have a car someday? How many want to go to college? How many want to buy a house?” Nearly every hand goes up.

Gooding then explains that if they start early and put away a little bit of money each week—he suggests $50—they can reach their financial goals. He illustrates the lesson with real-life examples from his own past.

“When we were coming up, we made all the typical rock-star mistakes,” he says later. “I got into credit-card debt. I didn’t open the bills. I thought ‘the record deal is going to save me.’” Watching himself—and friends and family around him—get into financial trouble is what initially fueled Gooding’s passion for spreading the message to young people.

“Kids have got to get out of the mindset that something outside is going to take care of them, especially now that the economy’s all changed,” Gooding, now financially comfortable, says. He goes on to explain, “There’s almost no job anymore that’s guaranteed. So you’ve got to figure out some way of building something for yourself. Any dollar that comes in, put away some part of it.”

If he could distill his message to students to two things?

-Slow and steady. If you can put away a little as you’re going and really think about your plan, you have such better odds of getting there.

-Be very careful who you’re borrowing money from. Stay away from same-day and other predatory lenders.

And he and the band are clearly getting their message across. Golden Gate senior Evelyn Gordillo, 18, says she had never heard of the band or of compound interest. “I learned a lot,” she says. “I didn’t know that I should be putting away $50 a week, starting now.” Gordillo said she does have a savings account, and was going to make a deposit in it later that same day. “And I found a new band I like too.”

Jamillia Dervil, 18, also a senior, says she enjoyed the concert. “I was screaming and singing a lot. And the information helped me with things for the future.”

Greg Turchetta, executive director for communications and community engagement for Collier County Public Schools, is thrilled to bring the show, sponsored by Raymond James, to the school. “We have financial literacy lessons in our classrooms, but coming from this messenger, the kids really take it in. They connect to the music in a way that’s really powerful.

Just take it from Dervil: “When I start working, I’m going to put $50 a week in an IRA.” 

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