Earlier this month I was invited by my friends at MassMutual to sit in on event they were hosting at the TD Garden called the FutureSmart Challenge. The events are held in partnership with local NBA basketball teams and actor/authorHill Harperto help bring financial education to middle school and high school students in cities across the United States. The goal through these events and corresponding digital programs is to reach and educate 2 million students by 2020 on the topics of financial literacy and the importance of education. To date, they’ve already impacted more than 54,000 students across 20 major cities!I was really excited to get involved at their Boston stop, because the topic hits home for me. I don’t tend to write a ton of content here about finance because there aren’t a whole lot of interesting things I can say about my journey in paying off some rather hefty student loans. It is a reality that happens behind the scenes of my site though, and my blog was a big part of how I was able to pay them off ahead of schedule. For my first 8-years of blogging I worked on partnerships and projects that enabled me to earn extra income that I put towards my student loan bills. But those projects also meant I worked nights and weekends for nearly 8 years on top of my 9-5 corporate job. It was a ton of work, and not something I had predicted I would be doing when I first signed those student loan papers and went off to college.

When I heard about MassMutual’s FutureSmart program, my first thought was: gosh, I wish that existed when I was in middle school and high school! I had no experience or context for the financial decisions I was making as I was applying to and getting accepted into college. I can actually remember sitting down to do my first financial aid and student loan forms and feeling so incredibly overwhelmed, because it was full of language and ideas I had never heard of before. I joined hundreds of Boston middle school kids on a chilly winter morning in the TD Garden and watched the interactive FutureSmart program lead by Hill Harper and got to see how MassMutual is aiming to equip these kids with the language that I didn’t have at their age to talk about money, savings, and paying for education. Hill Harper was an amazing, motivational advocate for the conversation – he’s a successful actor, author, and holds 3 Ivy League degrees (include two post-grad degrees from Harvard!). He infused so much energy and excitement into the kids (and we all know how hard is to get middle school aged kids excited about anything!).  Some of the topics he covered included the power of saving, the value of school and how education and career choices can impact what students earn, and how money can be used as a tool and impact your life in positive ways if you’re smart about how you use (or save) it. Hill used some great tactics that got the kids involved, like inviting a few of them onto the Celtics court to participate in a dance contest and using it as a metaphor for how we can be positively rewarded for taking risks and completing tasks.Brian Scalabrine of the Celtics also joined Hill Harper on the court, and talked to the kids about how to work towards your goals, drawing on his own experience of working towards his ultimate goal: playing in the NBA. He challenged the kids to consider how much could be accomplished if we all spent 15-30 minutes a day working towards a goal instead of scrolling on social media or watching TV, and I wrote that down because that’s darn good advice for adults too! The session ended with a challenge to the kids to fill out a blueprint for their own goals and financial conversations.

It was a totally different way to spend my morning, but I left feeling really inspired – for me andthe kids!  It was great to see these kids getting exposed to financial literacy in a way that was never possible when I was their age – I’m really excited to see how the program grows and continues to spread these great educational efforts. If you want to learn more about FutureSmart you can visit: futuresmart.massmutual.com.

This article was sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001. www.massmutual.com All opinions are those of the author.