170 | The Simple Startup

The Simple Startup | 170

Rob Phelan, author of The Simple Startup joins the show to share more about this new resource that can help anyone learn how to build a business. Plus, he shares the path of creating a financial literacy course for all grade levels that brings in the concepts of Financial Independence.

  • Rob started to learn more about Financial Independence after marrying his wife in 2016. Although they both have careers in public service that are traditionally low-income, they worked to set themselves up on a path to FI.
  • At age 10, Rob moved to his family's home in Ireland from New York City. After making the move to the Irish school system, he was exposed to an amazing opportunity in the 10th-grade. Instead of taking regular classes, he was given the opportunity to explore more about what truly interested him. With that, he started a small bakery business with his friends. Throughout the year, he learned how to manage a business and sell a product. That valuable skillset has stuck with him throughout his life.
  • When there was an opening in his school to teach a contemporary math class, Rob took the opportunity to develop a personal finance curriculum for his students. With Dani and the team at the ChooseFI Foundation, he has built out an interest led curriculum that encourages the student to explore the concepts of Financial Independence in a choose your own adventure style. After all, personal finance is personal so every student will apply these lessons to their life in their own way.
  • One of the lessons that kicks off the curriculum involves exploring the idea of needs versus wants. Another one of Rob's favorite lessons is introducing the concept of compounding interest and the effect that it could have on a student's life. Many of the lessons involve project-based learning. For example, one of the major projects is for students to build a small business that they are passionate about.
  • The Simple Startup is a workbook with fill in the blank framework that guides students through building a business. Although it is designed for high schoolers, it can help anyone build out a framework for starting their own side hustle.
  • Teaching financial literacy is something that many in our community are passionate about. In order to make this a reality of the future, we need your help. We need teachers, administrators, and parents to find ways to bring this content into their school districts. If you are interested in being a trailblazer, then please contact Rob at [email protected]

Resources

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Table Of Contents

Rob's Background

Jonathan: All right, everyone. On today's episode, we're actually going to do a little bit of a hybrid conversation, we're going to talk about financial literacy and entrepreneurship as it applies to kids in high school.

And we're going to do that through the lens of Rob Phelan, who actually works with us here at ChooseFI. He's been working with my wife, Dani and s team to create a curriculum to serve a K-12, actually a pre-K-12 audience, which is going to be rolled out under the ChooseFI International Foundation, currently being piloted in a school in Dubai. And actually right now, the University of Richmond has partnered with us to actually… Their Masters of Continuing Education Program is assessing this curriculum to really help make it even better.

So there's a lot going on in the background. Rob is releasing a new book with us called The Simple Startup, really taking some of the massive lessons that we've learned through his desire to teach financial literacy and entrepreneurship in the classroom, put it together in a wonderful workbook, which we're going to be releasing later this year.

And we wanted to come back and find out a little bit about his story and why this book is important, both as a resource for teachers but also maybe for parents who are looking for a way to get their kids working on some form of entrepreneurship.

I think it's going to be a phenomenal conversation. And to help me with this, I have my cohost, Brad with me today. How you doing, buddy?

Brad: Hey Jonathan. I'm doing quite well. Yeah, this should be a great conversation. Rob has become an important, essential member of our team here. And honestly, he's become a friend. I actually met him almost two years ago at a ChooseFI Richmond local meetup watching the World Cup final. Rob is a lifelong soccer player, I am as well. And yeah, we bonded over that, which was neat.

Rob has a fantastic and phenomenal story. He is a high school teacher, he teaches financial literacy, and he has this workbook, The Simple Startup. So I think there's a lot here for the audience to take away. So Rob, with that, welcome to ChooseFI.

Rob: Hey guys, thank you so much for having me. And just to verify, Brad does still have those mad soccer skills. He pulled those out at Camp FI this past May and he's still got it guys.

Jonathan: He can't do the kick anymore, the drop kick, the bicycle kick. That one always felt like an all-in move, you really had to be willing to risk your entire weekend in order to do that. But I will say, the man can still move.

Rob: Absolutely.

Jonathan: Let's talk about your interest in Financial Independence. As we were finding out more about your story, one of the things came through is that you and your wife both have “stereotypical” low-income public service jobs.

But that didn't hold you back from a desire to reach Financial Independence. And I guess, what sparked that? Where did that desire to maybe follow something other than the societal norm come from?

Rob: So yeah, my wife is a psychotherapist, I'm a high school teacher. Both our careers that you would not really associate with really high incomes. So that's where that kind of stereotypical low-income job comes from. And I feel like for at least the first few years of my career, that was absolutely a limiting belief on my part.

I got into teaching where I didn't get into it for the money, I got into it because I really liked working with kids, I liked the hours that went with it. I like being around people, so I didn't want to be in a cubicle all day. That was one of the driving forces behind becoming a teacher for me.

I got into teaching where I didn't get into it for the money, I got into it because I really liked working with kids, I liked the hours that went with it. I like being around people, so I didn't want to be in a cubicle all day. That was one of the driving forces behind becoming a teacher for me.

What got me into Financial Independence and finances was when I met my wife, she was way more educated on financial issues, just life in general than I was. She was definitely the financial guru in our house and I didn't like that imbalance in our relationship.

What got me into Financial Independence and finances was when I met my wife, she was way more educated on financial issues, just life in general than I was. She was definitely the financial guru in our house and I didn't like that imbalance in our relationship.

You had Larry on recently and you talked about how you could bring that balance to the relationship, and I really felt like that was something that resonated with me, that I needed to learn more about finances in order to bring that balance and be an equal part in our relationship.

So that drove me down the path of realizing there's just so much out there to learn about and it is more than just like making a budget or like having this plan, it's really this Financial Independence idea that you can chase this down and you can get it to a point where you don't have to work anymore, you don't have to stress about money for the rest of your life, you're not tied to debt for the rest of your life. All these ideas that I didn't realize were possible when I started out.

Learning About Personal Finance

Jonathan: I want to make sure I'm getting these big inflection points. Because at some point in your own journey, you are tasked with teaching financial literacy in the classroom and was this path of discovery on learning about finances yourself? Did that happen first? Help us time and place here, and what prompted you to teach financial literacy in the classroom?

Rob: There was like three or four different events that came together at the same time.

First, my wife has a chronic health condition, which always puts us at the risk of dropping down to a single income household, so I had that in the back of my mind. We had that in the back of our mind that we need to learn more about finances in order to build that safety net, reduce that stress so that if it does happen, it's not a big deal.

We got married in summer of 2016 so that was the time where we're like, “Okay, finances are really going to get combined now. We're not just roommates or housemates anymore. We got to figure this stuff out and make sure we're doing it right.”

And then as you said, my school had a vacancy open up where the… it's technically a math class, but it's called contemporary math, it's personal finance and math meet each other. That position opened up in my school and I was asked would I be interested in teaching it. And without knowing anything about money, I said, “Yes, absolutely. Sign me up.” And then I devoted that summer to really trying to figure out how money actually works so that I could teach kids about it.

Brad: So Rob, you talked about this educational or knowledge imbalance between you and your wife when it came to personal finance. But talk to me about your actual finances. As you are coming together in marriage here in the summer of 2016 as you said, what do your personal financial situations look like at that point?

Rob: So I was very fortunate, I'm sure we're probably going to talk about this in a little bit, to not have student loans coming out of undergrad. In Ireland at the time, undergrad was completely paid for by the government. And my parents had a bit of a geoarbitrage play in moving back to Ireland so that all of me and my siblings could go to college for nearly free.

And then when I moved to the US and I did grad school, I was able to get a graduate assistant position, which also dramatically cut the cost of college. So student loans were at a minimum for me. My wife had some student loans from her grad school, we both had a new cars that we bought when we started our first big boy job or big girl jobs.

There wasn't much else beyond that. I think we had about $26,000 in debt when we started off. And in terms of savings, not much more.

Jonathan: I guess you have a lot of different things coming together, you're now taking on this role of teaching kids financial literacy. And actually that's an interesting point that I'd like to come back to, the difference between how money works and then how you teach that to kids. I feel like there's actually some nuance there, some space there because maybe you don't lead with just exactly what you want to say. I'd like to come back to that.

But in terms of you and your wife having these entry-level salaries, working in public service and having $26,000 of student loan debt, having knowledge of your own health and what that health might be down the road. How did you approach your own personal finances? Was it through really leaning on frugality to minimize your expenses or increasing your income? Everything?

Give us a sense for, as your knowledge base grew about the rules of money, what action steps you took as individuals and together.

Rob: So individually when we were starting off, my wife was the one who was putting money into retirement. She had a big savings account as well, she had lived frugally in the first couple of years after she started working. All great lessons passed down from her dad.

Me, on the other hand, I was coming from this graduate system position where I was making about 10 grand a year from my stipend, so it was just enough to live off of. And then I had a little student loan to supplement that last little bit. So I came into our relationship with basically no savings, no net worth, and a little bit of student loan debt.

When I first started working as a teacher, my income dramatically increased and I went directly to the lifestyle inflation. So I was happy that I wasn't really stressed about money, but at the end of the month the balance was zero in our accounts. And life was fine, we were enjoying it, we had nice things, there was no pressure on it. But in terms of net worth, we weren't growing at all.

It really was that lost decade of nothing really changed. We just went month to month and things were fine, nothing was on fire, the debt wasn't overwhelming and it was okay. We weren't doing anything spectacular, we weren't doing anything terrible either.

The Impact Of Growing Up In Ireland

Brad: Nothing was on fire. That's a funny choice of words there. I like it.

Rob, I'm curious with people's background and upbringing, you mentioned that your wife's father taught her about frugality and personal finance. And also, I guess I have to imagine her chronic health condition has impacted how she's thought about money and safety and security.

You mentioned that your parents are from Ireland they had this geoarbitrage play of getting college for free or close to free. I'm curious if you could talk about your upbringing, any type of impact that your parents had or possibly even a cultural impact of growing up for a significant portion of your life in Ireland itself. Can you talk us through that and the impact that it had on you?

Rob: Absolutely. So I grew up for the first 10 years of my life in Long Island, New York because my parents in their 20s decided they were going to come to the US and try it out. My mom was a qualified nurse so she was able to get a visa straight away to come into the country because there was a shortage of nurses in the US. So she was able to move directly to New York and start working in the hospital straight away.

And my dad with then was able to follow as her husband. And he was an engineer and was also able to pick up work very quickly. I think they came over initially just to stay for a few years, try it out, see what this American life was about and ended up staying for 11 years. And during which time, me and my three younger siblings were born.

So I got to live in the US and grow up here until 5th-grade. So I was 10, 11 years old, and then they decided they were going to move back to Ireland. And the reason for that was, they had all their entire family was over in Ireland, they missed that. I think they missed the culture as well is a little bit of a slower lifestyle.

When my wife and I go back there, she describes it that they're almost like 10 years behind what the US is in terms of like adopting technology, just the way that the lifestyle goes. A lot of stores are still closed on weekends. It just is slower the way that we measure time just doesn't seem to be the same. Like if you say you're going to be somewhere in 10 minutes, really you've got about an hour window to be there and no one's going to look at you and say like, “You're late.”

And then growing up in an Irish school, so I transitioned from an American elementary school in 5th-grade where there was probably about 700 kids in the school and I switched to a small little rural elementary school in Waterford, Ireland that had 52 children in the entire school. So it was like night and day between like this really large community where very few people knew each other to this very tight compact community where I knew everybody in this school and pretty much everyone in the surrounding area. It became a very close community which I wasn't used to when I was living in the States.

And specifically, my 10th-grade year, there is this really cool idea that you just don't see in the US is called transition year. And what it is, it's an optional year for kids. So you finish your 9th-grade year and you take a set of state exams. And you choose at that point whether you would like to do this optional year or whether you would like to skip it, continue education, do two more years in high school and then you're done, you're out.

And this optional year it is all about personal development. So there are no tests, there's no exams, there isn't really much of a curriculum to follow either. Most teachers get to explore and do things that are of interest to them and really ideas about trying to introduce you as a student to as many different ideas, concepts, things as possible to help you figure out a little bit more about yourself. What you like, what you want to do, what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are and so on.

And this optional year it is all about personal development. So there are no tests, there's no exams, there isn't really much of a curriculum to follow either. Most teachers get to explore and do things that are of interest to them and really ideas about trying to introduce you as a student to as many different ideas, concepts, things as possible to help you figure out a little bit more about yourself. What you like, what you want to do, what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are and so on.

And in this 10th-grade year, that's really when I got these bug for entrepreneurship because my business teacher ran a mini-company challenge.

And that essentially was, we were tasked with coming up with a business idea and then starting it, which is such an amazing thing to do. It wasn't just about the concept, it wasn't like hypothetically what would this business look like. No, it was like you're going to actually start and run this business.

And so me and two of my friends, we started a baking company where we were making cookies and brownies and we were bringing them in at lunchtime, two days a week selling them during our lunch hour. And I think we made about a €500 profit by the end of the project, which for kids that age is just a huge amount of money.

I learned how to manage the finances, how to manage inventory, how to just talk to people and sell something, which selling something is such an amazing skill that we need to learn that we don't really get a chance to learn in school typically.

But really the lessons that came with that were just awesome, I learned how to manage the finances, how to manage inventory, how to just talk to people and sell something, which selling something is such an amazing skill that we need to learn that we don't really get a chance to learn in school typically.

Jonathan: Interesting. I want to bridge the gap here, you talk about how you're really starting your first job and you have this limiting belief of, “I make this low income and so FI isn't really an option for me and so I'm just going to tread water and that's as good as it's going to get, I'm just not going to look beyond that.”

But in your background, in this 10th-grade year, you have this mind-blowing experience where you started a business, you actually learned the ability to sell something. And so you do have this historical entrepreneurship in your background. And on top of that now, you start looking into Financial Independence and these concepts, and suddenly you start being more intentional with your finances.

How did that intentionality bridge over into what you did next?

Rob: Yeah, it's almost as if that experience became like a dormant memory for a while. And then when I really started digging into Financial Independence, I realized I have this ability to create income, that ‘earn more' side of things, it's possible even as a teacher.

And that experience with entrepreneurship was something that really allowed me to think outside the box like, “Okay, where are different ways that I can create income for myself?”

And so I experimented with things like tutoring, I refereed lacrosse as a side hustle.  I took on the soccer coaching role in my school, which came with a stipend as well. I started a club, which is called the Millionaire's Club, which is all about personal finance, and that also came with a stipend.

And then I just started selling my resources that I was creating as an educator on a platform called Teachers Pay Teachers, which is just essentially where teachers can create resources and sell them to other teachers and other teachers are willing to pay for it because it saves them hours of their own time having to create them.

Jonathan: Well, I appreciate you taking a few minutes to give us a sense for how you got here and what role entrepreneurship and financial literacy has had on your own life.

And now you find yourself as a teacher and you've been given the task of taking one of your classes, and I know you're a math teacher, but actually segmenting out one of the classes and really finding that overlap between financial literacy and math.

And I guess as we're talking about you personally learning the rules yourself, but then also figuring out how to best communicate those to your students, what did you find and what steps did you take to really start to build out this curriculum?

Building A Personal Finance Curriculum

Rob: So when I first was tasked with teaching this class, the old curriculum that was in place was the Dave Ramsey Curriculum. And I had been looking into Dave Ramsey, I used him to help me pay down debt, same pathway a lot of people take.

And then two years ago, I found your podcast along with Afford Anything and a couple of other ones, and that really started showing me that there was a lot more to how money could be managed, there was more than one path than just the baby step method.

And that really sparked me into like, I want to be able to provide that for students. It's not just a linear path like you might get in math, there are so many different ways to solve this problem.

It's not just a linear path like you might get in math, there are so many different ways to solve this problem. And students should hear about that because I think every kid is going to choose their own path. It's personal finances, personal to them.

And students should hear about that because I think every kid is going to choose their own path. It's personal finances, personal to them. So me prescribing one method, it was never going to work. And that was the shortfall I found with the Ramsey Curriculum, that it wasn't covering enough content.

And that was the main problem with the curriculum that students weren't able to grab onto that one idea that was being presented and say, “This one is for me. This is how I'm going to approach money.”

So that's when I reached out to Brad and I said, “Look, I can't find a curriculum out there at the moment that really speaks to what I want to teach students about money and this Financial Independence idea. Do you guys have anything going on at the moment or are you interested in letting me help you create something?”

And Brad was great enough to invite me down to Richmond and say, “Yeah, come hang out. Let's watch a soccer game.” And we talked about what a financial literacy curriculum might look like.

And then shockingly, your wife, Dani was already thinking the same thing. So we were able to team up and start building this K-12 curriculum that it wasn't just about financial literacy, it wasn't just about teaching kids what words meant or how things worked, it was also about developing the psychology behind it and trying to influence the behaviors that are needed in order to read something like Financial Independence. It's not just about the head knowledge, you also have to work on yourself as a person. And I think that's something that that curriculum really does very well.

Jonathan: Can I dive in there and actually ask you, how does… You have the luxury now of creating this from scratch but also the burden of creating this from scratch. So how do you go about… I know one thing that Dani, I guess set this up, Dani's preface to me is that one of the things you all have tried so hard to do is actually look at the requirements of what you're needing to teach them and then look for the natural overlap. Practically for our audience, help them understand what it means to build this organically from the ground up.

Rob: Yeah. So I had the luxury of working with my county to build a curriculum for geometry. So I had some experience with building curriculum before, and the key for it was what is the end goal? And then backward map from there.

And it's pretty much the exact same thing that you guys think of when you're talking about Financial Independence. What do you want your life to look like in the future? What are the actual steps you need to get there along the way? The curriculum is not very different to that, we talked about what should a high school student know coming out of high school and then, okay, well what does that look like in middle school? What are the lessons we can teach to build up to that?

Also what does it look like in elementary school, like you're not going to talk about these high level of financial concepts there. What can you talk about that's going to build up to this?

And then as you mentioned before, we were actually diving into pre-K as well. And that's a really cool concept where we're starting to think about, “Okay, what stories can I tell students? What experiences can I give them that helps build this mindset of frugality or saving or earning or things that are going to help them in the future?”

So when Dani and I and the team were meeting up, we started thinking about, “Okay, what were the original pillars of FI? That was where we started. And what does that look like for a high school student?

We said, “Okay, earn more, spend less, invest the difference, enjoy the journey.” Those are key concepts to begin with. And then we broke it down into our individual units. So we had things like, what is money in money out we're going to look like? So this idea of budgeting, cash flow, what are you going to do with that? What's a need versus a want? What are the different financial institutions out there? How can you use those? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

How do you tackle reducing your costs and your expenses? So thinking about the three major wants, housing, food, transportation. How do you attack those?

We talked about investing. So at the middle school level, what does investing look like? How do you get money to grow? And then at the high school level, going a bit more deep into things like stock investing, index fund investing, real estate investing. Pretty much everything that you hear us talking about on the ChooseFI platform, what does that look like at the high school level? We made it happen and then backward-mapped it all the way down to elementary.

Brad: Rob, you mentioned how important psychology and behavior was. I'd love to hear how you and Dani and the team implemented that in the actual course. Because as we know at the end of the day, once you learn this, the nuts and bolts of money, it's not that hard, but it's the psychology and it's that behavioral science that really, really makes a difference between success and failure ultimately.

Rob: Yeah, and you guys demonstrate that a huge amount on this podcast, it's not just about financial knowledge. You have such a variety of guests that come on and especially in the hot seat, you hear about how people, they don't often say like this particular piece of knowledge was the most influential thing in my life, they had some other life hacks, some other moment, some other skill they had to learn that helped them get on this path and stay on this path.

So for us in the curriculum, it might be talking about like, “Well, what is truly a need versus a want? How can you value something?”And we talk about like, okay your idea of a want might be very different to mine. How can you decide which wants stay in your budget, which ones don't? How do you put a value on a certain product or service, whatever it is? How do you put value on your time?

If you want to get something like a pet, what's the true cost of ownership of that pet? And then also, what is the other value that comes from having something like an animal in your house and where do you find the balance for that? So that value decision was one thing.

Delayed gratification is a huge concept at the lower levels especially. So when we're talking to elementary school, middle school, how do you teach kids to be patient in a world where instant gratification is everywhere? How do you teach kids that by waiting just a little bit longer, by putting off a little bit longer, you could have something better in the future?

So we talk a lot about, like the marshmallow test is a great example of the psychology experiment where kids were offered the marshmallow, they were told if you wait a little bit longer, we'll give you two marshmallows.

And we try and do similar things like that in elementary school, where we say, “Okay, here is a situation that you could be in. If you wait a little bit longer, it will get potentially better, which do you want to do?” And then the discussion that comes from that is usually where the best learning is going to happen.

So I find in my high school setting, like it's not me up at the top of the room, I'm just putting slides up and saying like, “This is what Financial Independence is. Take it in and learn it and you're done.” It really is kind of like, well, here's the topic for today. What do you guys know about it? What experiences have you had? And then I try and interweave little bits of information as we go.

But it really is about that discussion and letting kids come to their own conclusion about how they want to handle money. Because if they're building that idea for themselves, they're much more likely to stick with it. And they're also building that understanding for themselves, they're trying to figure out their identity and how it's going to relate to money.

Brad: The marshmallow test, the famous Stanford marshmallow test. That is so fundamental to a lot of this thinking and research. And I'm curious, I guess my fear has always been that's some of this is innate versus how can you teach people, how can they learn it?

And obviously you're on the ground with this. You've taught hundreds of high school students who maybe some of them would have taken the one marshmallow and some would have taken the two, but they're going to have adult lives where we know how important long-term thinking is. Have you found any nuggets or any particular things that have worked with helping people think more along the long-term mindset as opposed to just short-termism?

Rob: I would say the most important lesson that I typically get with students where I see that aha moment, I have their full attention, it's one of the very unique moments as a teacher where you're like you have the full captive attention of the room.

I would say the most important lesson that I typically get with students where I see that aha moment, I have their full attention, it's one of the very unique moments as a teacher where you're like you have the full captive attention of the room.

And I'm sure you guys have that same kind of feeling when you go and present, that there are probably points in your presentations where the audience is kind of engaged but they might have their phones out, they might be doing something else. But then there comes this moment in the story where you have their full attention, they're staring at you, they're taking every single piece. And that for me usually happens when we're talking about compound interest.

And I'm sure you guys have that same kind of feeling when you go and present, that there are probably points in your presentations where the audience is kind of engaged but they might have their phones out, they might be doing something else. But then there comes this moment in the story where you have their full attention, they're staring at you, they're taking every single piece. And that for me usually happens when we're talking about compound interest.

And it's not just a math idea anymore. So like in algebra two, you'll cover what exponential growth looks like and just that connection to money just doesn't seem to happen. But when we have the discussion in the financial literacy class and you start demonstrating for kids what this could potentially be.

Like we pull out compound interest calculators and we start letting kids plug in different numbers, we let them experiment and we say, “Okay, if you put $100 a month aside and you're 18, 17, 18 years old, you put $100 a month aside and you stop at like 25 and just let it go.” Kids are realizing, “I could have $1 million at the time I hit 65 if I just stopped at 25.” And they look at me like, “Well, I could be a millionaire? Me? And like with $100 a month? That's nothing. I could put that aside with my McDonald's job.”

They're suddenly like, “Whoa, you're not just talking about something that's beyond me here, it's not this arbitrary that really there's no application to me. Anybody can do this.” And that is that moment where you start really getting buy-in.

And so that's one of the first lessons I try and throw into the curriculum is like, let's talk about like what this compound interest thing actually is because this is it. This is why you want to learn how to manage all this other money because you want to create that gap that allows you to invest for the future.

Jonathan: Yeah, the compound interest. It's funny, I actually had a classmate of mine, actually his as late as pharmacy school. It just tells you how long these ideas actually sit with you. And they were messaging me and they were saying, “I actually remember you just doing random compound interest calculations like just as a pastime on side.” Yeah. I was always obsessed with compound interest calculations. All right.

Rob: I never got that in high school, I didn't know. I just never really connected it to finances and money. And I know Brad you said that was like an inflection point for you as well when you first got handed check and realizing, “Whoa, this is what it could be. This is what I could potentially have.”

And then with students, it becomes that question of, “Well, when do you want to retire? When do you want to stop working?” If you increase that $100 a month to something a little bit more, if you keep going beyond 25, you start seeing that date come down when you really could potentially retire.

And we don't really talk about retirement in the beginning, that's more of a conversation for later. But just that idea of having this huge nest egg, this huge net worth is something that really their eyes go wide and they're like, “Oh wow, this could be me.”

Jonathan: Yeah. I totally agree, man. And one of the things that actually came to my mind that I was curious about if you have a one size fits all solution, “Hey, just do this,” then the focus is pretty easy. It's just, “All right, well, you just got to teach this one concept.”

But when you're talking about a choose your own adventure, pick your own adventure, pick what works for you, you have all of these levers that you can pull. How does one effectively weight those and communicate those over the course of a semester?

Introducing The Idea Of Financial Independence To The Classroom

Rob: Oh, that's the hard question. It's really about me trying to research as much as possible on my end. So I'm trying to become as much of an expert as I can. Then when building the curriculum, trying to give places for teachers to recommend where they can go and explore and learn a bit more about the concept themselves.

We also present multiple options within a lesson where we say, “Okay, we want you to try and explore these ideas with students. So at least if you give two or three ideas, like you're giving enough to say there are options out here.”

And then also the idea of building this mentality in teaching that learning doesn't just occur in the classroom. So the idea of going out and learning from podcasts, from blogs, from reading, that is something that we really try and build in as well as an essential life skill, that talent stacking idea.

So like I am building a resource at the moment where it's, weekly insight, I'm calling it, but it's essentially a journal, a reflective journal. And in the journal, every week there's a new topic that is, maybe not necessarily something they'll be covering in the curriculum, but it's something that is going to be an essential life skill.

So one I just added in was about the five love languages. It's not something you would really talk about in a financial literacy class.

But when you're talking about Financial Independence, your relationships in your life and money are a huge problem for people, where there's a lot of peer pressure around how you should be spending money, when you should be spending money. Like holidays, gift-giving is a big one as well.

When you're talking about Financial Independence, your relationships in your life and money are a huge problem for people, where there's a lot of peer pressure around how you should be spending money, when you should be spending money. Like holidays, gift giving is a big one as well.

And then, well, if you can understand the other person and it doesn't have to be a romantic partner, it can be the friends in your life, it can be your family. If you can understand their love languages and how they choose to give and receive affection, you can start making much more informed choices about how you're going to spend money or how much you're going to spend or if you have to spend money at all. Like if their love language is quality time, well, you don't need to give them an expensive gift. All they want is your time.

And then, well, if you can understand the other person and it doesn't have to be a romantic partner, it can be the friends in your life, it can be your family. If you can understand their love languages and how they choose to give and receive affection, you can start making much more informed choices about how you're going to spend money or how much you're going to spend or if you have to spend money at all. Like if their love language is quality time, well, you don't need to give them an expensive gift. All they want is your time.

Jonathan: And they won't appreciate. They won't appreciate the expensive gift, they want your time.

Rob: It's like, it's like, “Oh, that's really sweet of you. But really, I just want you to put down your phone, put away the laptop and spend an hour of time with me.”

High school kids is the exact same thing. And a lot of them will, like I've talked about this before in my class, but I haven't done like a formal assignment on it. I find that letting kids go research these things on their own and letting them come back and let them drive that conversation the next day is a really effective way of doing things.

You find that they come back and they're like, “I went down this rabbit hole.” They go down their own rabbit holes, it's great, and then they come back and share what they found. So essentially, in the classroom, we're almost crowdsourcing on a much smaller scale of what everyone's found, what everyone's done.

And you just get great conversations and that's where the true learning occurs, where you have suddenly 30 different opinions and ideas and expertise coming into the room and everyone gets to evaluate and decide like, “I like the sound of that. I don't like the sound of that. I'm going to adopt this into my philosophy of how money is going to work.”

And you find you get 30 very different kids at the end who all have different ideas about money, but they're all thinking in terms of Financial Independence or moving forward with their money. They're not just stuck or they're not just drifting anymore.

Brad: Rob, you're basically describing iteration and split testing. And actually it reminded me of something you said maybe five minutes ago when talking about giving presentations or talking to your kids, you see there are certain areas where they might light up.

And other times they're just sitting there shuffling around, they're bored and we see it with presentations as well. And then there's certain areas where everyone just perks up. They get to the edge of their seat, those are the things you want to build in as you iterate, as you split test both how you present this, but also like you're saying, how the kids are going out and exploring this on their own.

I'm wondering if you could give us a couple of examples maybe of things that you've seen that have worked. I know this is pretty broad, but either for you or for the kids, like what has really hit home. Aside from obviously, we talked about compound interest before, but are there any instances of iteration or split testing you can think of that's really jumps out to you?

Needs Vs Wants

Rob: I mean, without knowing it, you guys probably are already very strong teachers. You're talking about the skill of pedagogy. So transferring information from one source to another and how you become really good at that. And it's what's the difference between a good podcast and a mediocre one. You guys are all dealing with the same information, but in terms of how it's presented, how it's communicated that is the true skill.

And what I find with students, and especially with this particular group of students, I work with high school seniors mostly, that you have to be able to read the audience. You have to be able to listen as well.

And when you start, yeah, you notice that they are grabbing onto a certain idea that you're like, “Okay, well, we're going to go, we're going to go down this path and we're going to explore it because that's really what you guys want to learn about.”

And if we can tie the other concepts into that particular story, that's where we'll learn the objectives of the lesson. And we do try and communicate that in the curriculum as well, we have a lot of guidance for teachers that, “These are areas that students might gravitate towards. If they do, go down that path, follow it, see where it goes and then come back when the moment is right.”

I find for me that's one of the first lessons I'll do in the curriculum is the needs versus wants lesson. And you're like, “Ah, needs versus wants, that doesn't sound strictly exciting. Maybe a little bit on the boring side. Like I know what I need, I know what I want.” So you start there like the general question, what's a need? What's a need?

And you'll get the needs you need it to survive, want is just anything else that's not a need. And it starts very slow, and then I'm like, “Okay, the activity we're going to do right now is this one called space quest. You are being out to populate, explore this new unknown planet and you've got 30 minutes to pack, what are you going to take with you?” And I present them with 60 different items. So they get these little cards and they have to decide, “Okay. You're only allowed to bring 18 of those items, what are you going to take?”

And they're in like teams of five and they have to like argue with each other about what are the 18 items they're going to bring. And I give them like 20 minutes or so to do that. They finally have their 18, they're so happy with themselves and they've settled and they've compromised on their 18. And I'm like, “Oh wait, sorry guys. The spaceships a bit smaller than we thought, cut it down to nine.”

And the conversation gets even more heated, more interested, excited. They're like, “Okay. This is out, this is out, this is out, we've got to keep this.” And it goes down then to five items. And eventually then we say, “Okay. Each group present what's your five items were?”

And then each group might have five different items and now they suddenly have to debate with each other, “Okay, what were the five items that truly are needs? What could you not survive without?”

And then we flip that into, “Okay, let's talk budget for a second. What are the essential items that you need to have in your budget that have to be paid for first. And then what are the things you could start cutting out if you had to trim your life down?” So like the spaceship getting smaller, essentially like you're in trouble, you're paying down debt, whatever it is, what's got to go, what can go and what has to stay?”

Jonathan: That's so amazing. I love that. I love how you take this question and turn it into something where the kids are the ones actually truly providing this incredibly engaged and almost competitive answers.

The Simple Startup

Jonathan: I want to actually bridge the gap here. So we talked about how this is a choose your own adventure, we talked about how in your own life. And that's the entire point, you're teaching these kids life skills, things that actually apply to all of our lives, but you're giving them the opportunity to think through this information at such a prime age where they really can then take action on it.

So if we go back and we compare this to your own life, you have this 10th-grade year, this transition year, and you have this business that you started that's become this dormant skill set that's been, you're starting to relive it and get excited about it, and actually you're starting to take on all sorts of side hustles and entrepreneurship, even in the present.

And now you're teaching this financial literacy curriculum, you're talking about a choose your own adventure where you can spend less, you can earn more, you can learn how to invest better. And then as you start to put those two together, you're talking about earn more or the power of entrepreneurship, the power of side hustles.

And you also know from your experience that the students learn best when they're given the opportunity to go down the rabbit holes themselves. How does that set you up to really want to create this Simple Startup workbook that's bringing us here to talk about today?

Rob: For me, The Simple Startup was this way of getting students to… I wanted to be able to guide them. I didn't want to be the dictator in front of the room either. I wanted them to be able to figure out, come up with their ideas, kind of like that project we talked about earlier.

I wanted to be able to present students with the prompts needed for them to figure out, well what their business idea was going to be, what were they actually passionate about doing, and then how they'll take it further and become this kind of… It doesn't have to be this massive enterprise, it's a small side hustle.

We know the value in that. It doesn't have to create tens of thousands of dollars straight away, if it brings in an extra 100 dollars a month, that's a game-changer for a lot of people. And especially for high school students, that is a lot of potential that they can suddenly figure out for themselves.

So The Simple Startup, it's a workbook, so it's fill in the blanks as you go, but it's mostly questions and prompts that are going to cause students to think. So in the beginning, we talk about brainstorming and idea generation.

And Alan Donegan was a big inspiration for that as well with PopUp Business School. That's, what are you passionate about? What are you excited about? What's is going to be easy to start off versus really difficult to start up? And then you try and find that sweet spot or something you're really excited about, you're passionate about but won't take a ton of time, effort or resources to start. That's your simple startup. That's the one you do while you're in high school.

What are you passionate about? What are you excited about? What's is going to be easy to start off versus really difficult to start up? And then you try and find that sweet spot or something you're really excited about, you're passionate about but won't take a ton of time, effort or resources to start. That's your simple startup. That's the one you do while you're in high school.

And then we pursue from there, we go into building a team. So you've got the idea that you think is really good, maybe the kid besides, hasn't quite found that yet, but they are excited about your idea and they want to help out with it. So you start assembling your team and you see, “Okay, what are my skillsets? What are their skillsets? Am I bringing someone in who's going to add or are they just another replica of me, which doesn't necessarily add very much, but I could potentially split workload with them?”

And then it keeps going further. So the kids are building this business as they go, like you're building the plane as you fly, there isn't just do all the academic work, and then at the very end we'll start it, like you start from day one.

So the kids are building this business as they go, like you're building the plane as you fly, there isn't just do all the academic work, and then at the very end we'll start it, like you start from day one.

So once they've got the idea and they've built their team, they start actually putting the wheels in motion to get this business going. So we start with a business snapshot, which is just all the essential components that you might need for your business, like what do you think you're going to need in terms of resources? Who are the people you're going to interact with? Who your customer is going to be? Roughly, what do you think you might charge for this? Like just throw your ideas down in a framework that helps kids get organized.

And then keep going from there. What's your marketing strategy going to look like? How are you going to manage the finances of your business?

If you did want to potentially pitch investors, and that's the end goal, the final project for this. If you were going to pitch your business, what would that look like?

So at my school, we have a school wide competition, where last year it was run like a Shark Tank-style. I had student teams come in and they pitched their business as a potential investment that had like legs to run. This year I'm going to try for more of a business fair idea. So every kid's going to set up a stall, a table with their business. And I'm going to have the student body come in and kind of interact with them, let students try and sell and then the rest of the student body is going to vote for the business based on like which ones they were most excited about, which ones were pitched very well, which ones had the best product or service.

So it's just like a really fun experiment for students, and I hope for them, it's going to be that life changing experience that when I look back in high school and like, “That's the memory. That's my strongest memory of high school in terms of like a valuable learning moment.” And I'm really hoping that this curriculum in general, particularly this project is going to be that for a lot of high school students going into the future.

Brad: Rob, this is amazing. I certainly want to talk about maybe some of the successes you've seen, but I'm curious first about that team building. That's the part that jumped out to me.

So let's say for argument's sake you have, I don't know, 25 kids in a class, do each of them brainstorm a project and then they naturally break into teams? Like are there going to be eight different teams approximately of three kids? Are there like little almost pitch sessions for like ‘hey, join my team.'

How does this work? Is it an organic thing? Are you from the top down saying like, “Here's a process, we're looking to have six, eight, 10 teams out of a class?” Talk me through how that works and how you've seen it fall out throughout a couple of different, I guess, potentially classes and semesters of this.

Rob: All right. I'm going to have about 70 students this spring that are going to go through the ChooseFI curriculum and we'll also go through The Simple Startup. And I'm estimating that I'm going to have maybe 30 businesses. So usually about a rough split of half the students will be the number of businesses that you'll get.

And not because everyone's going to work in pairs. What you will get is, some students will opt to work in teams of three's and we'll be in two's and some want to work on their own. And recognizing that not every kid wants to work in a team, they excel working on their own. And part of the team building chapter is, it's a small mini quiz, statements such as like, I am energized when I'm working with people. Or if I have a problem, I want to approach others and get as many different solutions as possible. Or I like to have all the responsibility myself. I struggle to delegate.

And through the agreement or disagreeing with those statements, we come out with, well, you're probably going to tend to work better on your own versus you're going to work better in a group. So I'm trying not to dictate to them that you have to work in a group or you have to work on your own, I want them to make that choice for themselves.

And sometimes it's because a kid has an idea that they're really excited about and they're like, “You know what? I've got something, I want to develop this, I want to go with it.” And they just go work on their own, they develop it on their own, they've got time to do it. Some kids don't feel super passionate about their ideas yet, they haven't really built that muscle yet of being able to recognize business opportunities or things that they want to work on.

You find a lot of times that if you ask a kid, “What are you really passionate about? What skill would you like to learn? In the talent stacking section,” we'll talk about that, “What skill would you like to learn?” And a lot of them look you blankly like, “Well, no one's ever asked me that before. You usually just tell me what we're going to learn.”

So it can be a case that some kids just haven't developed that muscle yet of being able to figure out something that they want to do, like to direct their own learning. And they're usually the ones who want to team up with others. And that's perfectly fine, work as a team, come up with something as a unit. And sometimes the individual business is better, sometimes the team business is better.

It's just such a wide range of things that they come up with, and it's really fun to just be…I'm just basically sitting back in the room and I'm available to answer questions, but they're really driving their own businesses and learning. We'll talk about a particular topic or concept maybe for a couple of minutes and then say, “Okay, go figure out how this applies to your business and develop it, come up with your strategy and then ask me if you've got questions.”

Jonathan: Rob, I had mentioned how this curriculum is actually is being piloted currently at several schools, but really the first class to get an early version of this was yours because this was “selfishly” created, so you would have a curriculum that actually served your students, high school students to blend financial, literacy and math.

And I'm just curious with this progression of students that came through, what came out of that, did you get feedback on the implementation?

Rob: Yeah. This process started 18 months ago roughly when Brad and I had that conversation, and then the curriculum was developed with Dani, myself, and the team. And this time last year was when I got to run through it for the first time with students. And I would love to say it was a polished finished article from the beginning, but it really was a building the plane as you fly kind of thing.

I found things that work, things that didn't, feedback from the students was, “We really love the project side of things, less of you being in the front of the room talking and more like the class discussions, the projects, the discovery learning.”

So when I did it for the first time, I was more of the person up top delving out the information. Which is not the way I like to teach, but just, I still hadn't figured out the best way to transfer this information from me to students.

It really is about them discovering the information, building their own, understanding of it themselves, and that's really what the curriculum has developed to become. So we have a lot more of the bigger projects where our students get to work and discover as they go. We have a lot of send them out on their own to do research, come back, be a mini expert and then share and discuss. So it really has morphed into this awesome resource that I think any teacher can pick up and use because it's as scripted as a teacher needs it to be. So if you are the teacher who has no financial literacy training whatsoever, you can pick it up and there's enough guidance and support for you that you could bring this into a classroom and be that guide for the students.

And even then, that analogy is not a great one. It really is about them discovering the information, building their own, understanding of it themselves, and that's really what the curriculum has developed to become. So we have a lot more of the bigger projects where our students get to work and discover as they go. We have a lot of send them out on their own to do research, come back, be a mini expert and then share and discuss. So it really has morphed into this awesome resource that I think any teacher can pick up and use because it's as scripted as a teacher needs it to be. So if you are the teacher who has no financial literacy training whatsoever, you can pick it up and there's enough guidance and support for you that you could bring this into a classroom and be that guide for the students.

You don't have to be the expert in the room, you can be the one who's asking the good questions, letting students come to their own discoveries and then just facilitating conversation. All the way up to the person who maybe is an avid listener of the ChooseFI podcast. You've got the financial literacy side down, you really want to help your students out, you are going to take a lot of the different resources in the curriculum, maybe the structure, maybe some of the guidance, and you're going to create this awesome product for your students that is going to be tailored to (a) your comfort level, your areas of expertise, but also what your students need.

So it's very much a choose your own adventure kind of idea. There isn't this final test at the end that every student has to be prepared for, there isn't this very restrictive curriculum that's in place that you have to stick to.

It is such a fun subject to teach because you do get to explore and venture out, and a lot more compared to most other subjects you have to teach. Like compared to math, it's like the shackles are taken off and I can go down any route that I really want to go with students. It's so fun to do.

How To Teach Financial Literacy In Your Own School

Brad: And Rob, that brings my question to mind, which is, I'm sure there are a lot of teachers listening enviously to the latitude that you've had. So you walked in to teach this course. I think you said there was a preexisting curriculum based on Dave Ramsey, and you've put into place basically your own curriculum. And now the ChooseFI curriculum, the Simple Startup concepts and workbook and such.

How did you go about that on a procedural basis? You're a regular high school teacher, you're not an administrator, you don't run a charter school. How did you actually do this? And then I guess the natural follow-up is, how would other teachers out there, because undoubtedly, there are thousands of teachers listening to this, how would they go about doing that in their own schools and counties and districts?

Jonathan: That's a great point, Brad. I mean, you're doing this at a public-school system which means Common Core is applicable. There are certain standards that you have to make sure are included in the curriculum and you're right, you seem like you've been able to be out in the Wild Wild West, doing whatever you want, which is great. But how?

Rob: I guess the short answer to that is financial literacy education is still the Wild Wild West, there are only a handful of states that are mandating it as part of their curriculum. And then there are ones that are adding it in, such as like North Carolina, Kentucky, they're still trying to figure out what this thing is going to look like. So I would imagine most states, it is pretty much a free for all in terms of trying to get this into your school and into your curriculum.

For me, I did a lot of work when I first started teaching to rise up the ranks, and I know as a teacher, you think like there are no ranks, but there are. I put myself in positions where I was offering to write curriculum for the county, so I got to talk to the decision-makers in my county.

I am the department chair in my school, so I made sure that I was doing the best job I could every single day, and when the position of department chair came up, I was like, “You know what, I want this, I want to put myself in that decision making role.” So it's kind of a middle-management tier, I am directly reporting to my principal and then also my department.

So I get to have a lot of say in terms of like how our budget is spent, how we are going to approach different types of assessments or if there's principal say that something that needs to be done, I'm the one disseminating that information to my team.

And the particular subject, I teach contemporary math, it was like, we want a class for high school seniors who have taken algebra two, they don't really want to go into the upper levels of math and they need to take a fourth-math credit because that is the Maryland graduation requirement.

So it was like this weird class that nobody really seemed to want to take ownership of. I don't want to say they didn't care about it, but there was no strict guidelines of how it was supposed to run. So I was in the fortunate position of having a little bit of a sandbox to play in. And that allowed me to say, “Okay, I want to really try and make this financial literacy curriculum as strong as possible, and I've got a place where I can test it out.

And then if we can get a strong enough product out there, we want to be able to approach other schools who maybe have a financial literacy requirement or who are thinking about it and say, ‘look, we've got a product that works, that students really like, the parents really like and it's going to be a really effective use of time in your school.'”

Because we measure things like their financial literacy knowledge, we do try and measure that at the beginning and at the end. But we also try to measure things like behavioral change, mindset change, which is something that most other curriculums don't do.

So we've developed a system called the Passport to Financial Independence. And this was a really cool idea where there are 40 different stamps that a student can earn. And each stamp is a positive financial behavior that would get them on the path to Financial Independence. So things like opening a savings account, opening a brokerage account, getting a library card. We understand here the importance of the library, going in and exploring that.

Jonathan: I've got the library card. That's awesome.

Rob: So the idea that you want students to level up. This whole psychology of leveling up and gaming really comes into this as well where you want students to figure out, “Okay, I've got X number of stamps already, I want more because there are different things that come with that.”

So for me, I have a local regional bank who is sponsoring the passport this coming spring, and they are basically saying like, “Okay. If your class of 30 achieves 200 behavioral changes, so of the 30, there's 200 stamps, they will sponsor a pizza party for the class.” Really simple idea, but I approached them, I said, “Look, I've got this really cool project, do you want to be attached to this in some way?”

And it's a local bank who actually does a lot of great stuff for the community, so I was really happy to have them on board. But it's just a different way of approaching, assessing a curriculum and its effectiveness.

So by the end, there's a big classroom poster where the teacher records all of the different behavioral changes that occurred. And we're going to be able to see, “This is the number of positive behavioral changes that a student took or the class took towards improving their financial wellbeing.” And I think that's much more effective as a measuring tool than any financial literacy tests might be.

Jonathan: Wow. We talk about friction, and a lot of times when we're talking of the lost decade, we're literally talking about friction. Someone just didn't do these simple things that maybe in your 30s you take for granted, but you didn't have any prioritization to do it earlier in life. That's incredible.

I have two things that I want to point out, and Brad teed this up too, but just to connect these two ideas together. One, to teachers or administrators that are listening to this, when you're talking about this curriculum… I remember at one point in time, I was talking with Dani, who with you is the co-chair on this curriculum and you guys are working with this phenomenal team. And I used the words, “Man, this curriculum is really been built from the ground up.”

And she's like, “No, you're 180 degrees wrong. It has been built with the end goal in mind and then back down, so that these ideas really start working towards with these end goals in mind.” And then she said, “The other thing that I want to make sure is communicated, is that this curriculum was created with what the teachers already have to do in mind because in this world where we're given all these extra things for teachers to do, it's just one more thing to pile on top of them, one more thing that they have to figure out how to add into their day.”

If you instead look at the Common Core requirements, what they're already required to do and help them figure out how to do more with less. Basically, allow them to look at the content they're already having to create, already having to teach and then figuring out a way to help them get the spill over benefits and to these other areas like financial literacy. You're creating this curriculum with teachers in mind and almost by extension, administrators in mind. Imagine being able to take this to your team and realize you're both making their lives easier and simultaneously, you're looking out for your kid's future. That is what makes this so appealing.

If you instead look at the Common Core requirements, what they're already required to do and help them figure out how to do more with less. Basically, allow them to look at the content they're already having to create, already having to teach and then figuring out a way to help them get the spillover benefits and to these other areas like financial literacy. You're creating this curriculum with teachers in mind and almost by extension, administrators in mind.

Imagine being able to take this to your team and realize you're both making their lives easier and simultaneously, you're looking out for your kid's future. That is what makes this so appealing.

And so Rob, just to connect that, if we do have teachers that are go-getters, that want to figure out how to be that force of change, that instrument of change in their school system. Or administrators that are open and receptive and say, “I am the decision-maker. This goes through me and I'm blown away that this now exists.” What is the best way for them to connect with you and start looking towards getting this concept implemented in their school?

Rob: You've hit so many key things here for us, we need early adopters to come in and take this curriculum on because we need then to be able to generate results that we can approach school districts with and say to administrators, “Look, we have evidence that this is an effective curriculum.”

I feel like an administrator is in that position where their hands are a little tied. If they want to bring in something radically new and different, they may be in a great position, kind of like the school in the Arab Emirates where the decision maker was just able to say, “Yeah, I've got full control here, I'm going to bring in this curriculum and try it out.”

But most administrators in public schools like they are answerable to higher powers, if they are going to bring something in, it has to have evidence that it is effective. So we are looking to build that evidence right now.

So if you are a teacher who is like, “I've got a little bit of flexibility in how I approach my class,” whether that is a math class and English class, social studies class, any subject really, and you feel like there are concepts from the curriculum that could be brought into your class, you absolutely should take this on and bring it in. It is 100% free, is available to any teacher who wants to use it.

If you are an administrator and you do have that flexibility to bring something like this in, we would love to work with you in getting it into your school, providing the support that you need to train your teachers and make sure that your staff is ready to use this. And then also providing the evidence at the end that this was in fact an effective decision and students are better for it.

So if you do have any interest in helping us out, if you have any leads, please do reach out. You can reach me at [email protected] So send me an email, let me know what the lead is. I will touch base with you and we will set it up and make it happen.

Jonathan: And I'll have all the contact information for Rob in the show notes for this episode. Also, this episode is 170, episode 170. You can access the show notes at choosefi.com/170. And there's also going to be a form down at the bottom where you can just very quickly put in your name, contact information and just press the send button, and that form will go directly to Rob as well. So you don't even need to remember the email address.

Brad: Yeah. And this is amazing. Rob, I just want to say a huge thank you to you, Dani and the entire team.

This is a curriculum by teachers for teachers. And you said this is not just a one-off lesson, it's not a pamphlet, this is a full curriculum to make teacher's lives easier. You don't need massive financial literacy coming into this. The work has been done. And as I understand that you have a separate and distinct curriculum for K-5, middle school and high school.

Rob: Yes. And then pre-K is on the way.

So it is extremely accessible, any teacher should be able to bring it into your classroom. We've tried to make it so that the resources are all included. The cost to implement the curriculum should be an absolute minimum. So like the curriculum itself is free, there are some resources that if you want to purchase them and bring them into your classroom, you can, if not, we provide free alternatives.

So there should be a very low barrier to entry for most teachers to bring this in. You don't have to run it as a standalone curriculum, so it doesn't have to be an 18 week or full-year thing. It can be just a handful of lessons here or there.

If you are a teacher who is passionate about this, interested in it, bring it into your classroom, find overlaps between what you're doing that can have a financial literacy twist to it. If you were an education teacher, like I love doing book studies with my students. So we are going to be doing a book study during this upcoming semester as well. You absolutely could tie English literacy standards to that as well.

All of our lessons have math and ELA standards attached to them as well. So if you feel like you have to basically back it up to an administrator, you can say, “Look, these do meet Common Core State Standards for math and English literacy.”

The Simple Startup Workbook

Jonathan: That's fantastic. Now, I want to go ahead and bridge the gap here and I want to talk real quickly about The Simple Startup workbook that's actually, we're going to be offering under ChooseFI Publishing, as a standalone workbook that you can get.

And I just want to say real quick Rob, let us know when is this going to be available for preorder and also who should consider this? Is this just for the classroom? Would this be valuable or useful for a parent that wants to teach their kids or have their kids learn about entrepreneurship? Give us some sense of who the target audience for this is.

Rob: Yeah. As you mentioned, ChooseFI Publishing is going to be the ones that are releasing the book and they have been absolutely awesome.

I've gotten to work really closely with MK who everyone here should be familiar with from the Friday roundups. She has been a fantastic resource and if you do have idea for some financial book, workbook, something like that, I highly recommend reaching out to MK and letting her know about it, see if it's something that is suitable for the ChooseFI Publications umbrella.

She actually just messaged me this morning say that the preorder is up and ready to go. So it is available on Amazon. It will soon be available in Barnes and Noble. I believe the second week of February is when it will start hitting bookshelves, but really exciting times. And you can go find out more at thesimplestartup.com.

And to answer the other question about who this is for, it started out being just for high school teachers. I was like, here's something that helps a high school teacher who knows nothing about starting a business to get students going with this project, so you don't have to be an expert. Kind of like the curriculum as well.

But then what I'm realizing is the more people that are proofreading and looking at it for me, I'm getting adults coming to me and saying like, “This is something that I will use. It's got great concepts in here for starting a side hustle, for a mini business on the side.” It is that step one for getting a business off the ground. You may have to take other steps afterward if you want to do something bigger and better, but this is the one that gets… Anybody can take this and start a business from it.

And it goes all the way down to younger kids as well. So if you want to talk to your elementary school child about maybe starting something like a lemonade stand or they have some craft that they produce that could be sold, this is a book that would help them get that started.

And as a parent, you could very easily go through this with them because it's in a language that is meant for teenagers to be able to understand. So you as a parent should be able to take that work with a younger kid as well and be able to come up with a great business idea and get it started.

Brad: Yeah. Rob, the workbook is gorgeous. It looks like a fun project. I'm looking at it through beginner's eyes and just look at it, it looks like something that's accessible that you'd want to work through. So yeah, I highly, highly recommend this. And like you said, it's at thesimplestartup.com.

Jonathan: Rob, this is so overdue. Thank you so much for coming on the show, sharing with us a bit of your backstory, also just really expressing to our community why this curriculum exist and who it's for and how teachers can access it, the tools that you and the team I've put together.

And then also The Simple Startup. I mean, this workbook is amazing. It's amazing. It's something that as a teacher, it's going to be a fantastic resource you can use inside the classroom. And if you're a parent with an adolescent or teenager or for yourself, just try to get a mental model to work through to start a side hustle. It is a phenomenal, phenomenal resource, and what I love as you said, this is not top-down, rather it's interest led.

When is the last time someone came to you and said, “What are you interested in? Here's a list of things you need to learn, but what are you actually interested in?”

And then instead of you going down endless rabbit holes without any guidance and getting lost, it just says, “Hey, here's some very general guardrails to help steer you towards something where you'll be able to have this skill set for life.” And so I'm very excited to see it all come together. Someone listening to this, they want to connect with you, what's the best way for someone to do that?

How To Connect

Rob: My contact information is [email protected]

And just speaking directly to you, the listener, this is something that if you are passionate about financial literacy education, we are going to have to be the ones who make that change. If you work in education, you know that it moves notoriously slow, change is very hard to make happen, it has to come from the bottom up a lot of times.

So if you know somebody, if you are a teacher, if you have a child in school, reach out to the teacher and let them know that this curriculum exists and it's something that maybe they should look at and get into their school.

Jonathan: Rob, thanks so much for joining us, buddy.

Rob: Thank you guys.

Jonathan: To our audience, if you have ever said to yourself, “Man, this information is great, why don't they teach this in school?” Well, you're at the cusp, hopefully of this next inflection point where you can't say that anymore. This is it. This is why it exists and it's really, it's so they won't have that excuse.

Brad: Yeah. And Jonathan, this is why we created the ChooseFI Foundation, to bring financial literacy to the country and to the world. And we need your help. Like you said, like Rob said, this is grassroots. We need people to step up and say, “I want to be a part of this. I want to be a part of a movement that is changing the world.”

And like we said, just reach out to Rob, [email protected]

Jonathan: All right, my friends, if you got value from today's episode, if you've been getting value from the episodes up to this point, just press Subscribe on your player of choice, whether or not that'd be your podcast or YouTube, like, comment, subscribe.

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5 thoughts on “The Simple Startup | 170”

  1. Rob says the curriculum is “free” it seems in this podcast and the notes. I’m interested in learning more how to teach my children entrepreneurship. We have our own small little business but always willing to learn better ways to teach our children since we homeschool. When I went to the website all I have access to is the resources/appendices…. do we have to buy the book to get access to the true curriculum? I’m not against paying for the value, but just wondering since I see mention of it being free if there’s another way to get the offer for a small homeschool family. Thanks!

  2. Hello,
    Rob says that he has some things on Teachers Teaching Teachers. What is the name of his course because I would love to check it out.

    Thanks,
    Penny

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