by Colton Campbell

Kim Holder doesn’t think every student should know how to balance a checkbook. Knowing why they should balance one, though – that’s a different story.

Kim Holder“I want all students to know where their money comes from and where it goes,” said Holder, who serves as the director of the Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy (CEEFL) at the University of West Georgia. “Technology changes rapidly. Balancing a paper checkbook is quickly becoming a relic of the past. I’d rather teach them why it’s important to track their finances. That’s something will be useful and important for the foreseeable future.”

In fact, it’s Holder’s goal that her students generate so much wealth, they never even have to worry about balancing their own checkbook.

Holder, also an economics lecturer in the Richards College of Business, works with her colleagues in UWG’s College of Education to bridge the interdisciplinary gap between the two colleges and enhance the financial literacy of three key constituencies: K-12 teachers; UWG students; and the West Georgia community at large.

To that end, Holder travels across the United States – and across the seven-county region UWG’s center serves – to help teachers, students and members of the community master personal finance and adopt a more economic way of thinking.

“What I teach is so simple but can be so complicated for countless people – everyone from kindergarten students to tenured faculty members,” Holder said. “It’s really all about leveling the playing field and finding out what tools the people I interact with need and filling up their toolbox.”

For some students, teachers and community members, that’s how to file taxes. For others, it’s how to budget and save money, weighing the costs and benefits of their choices. For still others, it’s how to balance the dreaded paper checkbook.

“I believe if they have a true understanding of economics and financial literacy, they’ll be better voters, citizens and constituents because they’ll have a better understanding of how things work,” she said.

UWG’s CEEFL was established in 1972 as part of state and national organizations – the Georgia Council on Economic Education and the Council for Economic Education, respectively. The UWG center – which serves Carroll, Coweta, Haralson, Douglas, Heard, Meriwether and Troup counties – is one of 12 of its kind in the state.

Holder has visited nearly all 50 states to lead teacher training workshops and classes. Her annual Rockonomix competition encourages students from across the nation to rewrite a popular song with lyrics centered on economics or personal finance.

“When I became a lecturer in the Department of Economics in fall 2010, I developed a number of activities designed to help students learn to ‘see’ economics in their everyday lives in order to help solidify the concepts we learned in our lectures and readings,” Holder said. “These smaller projects helped prepare students for the end of semester finale known as Rockonomix, which I’m pleased now has national participation.”

Holder and her COE partner, Director of Field Experiences Wanda Calhoun, also help K-12 teachers understand economics and personal finance so they can be better teachers for their students.

“We train teachers on how to use a program that simulates the stock market that they can share with their students and give them ideas of what to use in their classrooms to make economics applicable to their students’ daily lives,” Holder said. “That’s why it’s so critical that we partner with the College of Education: the content we share is important, but just as important is the delivery and how we teach the teachers.”

Last year, the center received a $25,000 donation from the Walmart Foundation to create and implement video modules detailing personal finance basics video modules to be made available to all UWG students. Holder and others will also begin designing intermediate-level financial literacy modules to be made available to faculty for use as independent supplements to existing courses.

Holder said her mission – and, by extension, that of the CEEFL – is to dispel the myth that wealth creation is an evil enterprise.

“There’s a big idea in popular culture and society that generating wealth is an inherently evil thing,” Holder said. “I want to explain to my students – and the teachers who teach their students – that building a person’s wealth is about building more choices for himself or herself. We all have choices to make with what to do with our money. We just want to ensure everyone we come in contact with are working toward greater freedom to choose in their everyday life.”

Photography by Xiaojuan Christian

Posted on March 27, 2019