Barron’s in Education Connects Students and Professionals, Enhancing Financial Proficiency

The program includes digital subscriptions, events, career advice, and real-world experience

Photo: Tamanna Rumee

Photo: Tamanna Rumee

April is National Financial Literacy Month—a topic that remains top-of-mind at Barron’s Group.

Despite being the richest country in the world, the U.S. fares quite poorly on some educational basics: only 7% of high school students are considered financially literate and 29 states do not require a basic economics or financial literacy class to earn a high school diploma.

College students don’t do much better, with 72% of undergraduates unable to pass a basic financial knowledge test. And 70% of millennials say they are stressed and anxious about saving for retirement.

“The statistics are pretty scary,” says Joe Lanza*, director of financial education at Barron’s Group. “You see it with student debt, with credit cards, with every avenue of finance.”

University of Colorado Boulder students visit the Dow Jones headquarters in New York. Photo: Barron's in Education

“Studies reveal even most adults can’t pass a financial literacy test,” he says. “Most people don’t really feel comfortable about their finances.”

*Joe Piombino is currently the manager of financial literacy at Barron's.

University of Colorado Boulder students visit the Dow Jones headquarters in New York. Photo: Barron's in Education

University of Colorado Boulder students visit the Dow Jones headquarters in New York. Photo: Barron's in Education

For the last three years, Lanza has led the Barron’s In Education program as it tries to remedy students’ financial readiness by partnering with financial industry leaders and academia to bring real-world financial experience and know-how into college and university classrooms. High schools are also involved.

The program provides complimentary digital Barron’s subscriptions to students and enables faculty and students to engage with business leaders, top market professionals, C-level executives and highly successful investors to improve their financial literacy and proficiency. By giving students access to the same reporting, analysis and investment ideas that top business leaders use, the goal is to have them better financially educated and knowledgeable about mortgages, 401(k) retirement plans, credit card debt, global capital markets, investment and stock options, college loans, asset management, and diversification.

“You develop not only the knowledge and experience of the financial world, but what it is really like out there in that world,” says Leonardo Girlando, a junior at Penn State. “It’s all about action-driven thinking.”

“There is a lot of practicality to the program, getting to learn things that you do as a professional that you don’t really learn as a student,” says Girlando, who as a Student Ambassador for the program works within the Penn State community to drum up interest and support.

Photo: The set-up for a Barron's in Education career networking event at the University of Chicago. Credit: Barron's in Education

From left: Barron's Group's Joe Lanza, Raymond James and Associates' Lisa Detanna, PagnatoKarp's Paul Pagnato and McBride & Associates' Tommy McBride. Photo: Barron's in Education

From left: Barron's Group's Joe Lanza, Raymond James and Associates' Lisa Detanna, PagnatoKarp's Paul Pagnato and McBride & Associates' Tommy McBride. Photo: Barron's in Education

Photo: Hector J. Rivas

Photo: Hector J. Rivas

Many industry giants like Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management financial advisors, and independent advisors now sponsor the Barron’s in Education program at specific schools so students can get Barron’s at no cost along with webinars and guest speakers from Wall Street. “We wanted to partner with academia and the industry, especially companies involved in wealth and asset management,” Lanza says. “We wanted to make it a participatory and experiential learning experience.”

With the webinars, “you get to stay on top of the markets and get a tremendous amount of insight from industry leaders,” says Girlando, who grew up in Central America and speaks Italian, Spanish, English, and Chinese. “And you get the opportunity to develop a network.” After just three years since it was launched, universities, colleges, and high schools from across the country are participating, including both public and private institutions.

“It’s a partner-sponsored model whereby Barron’s and a private-sector partner work together to sponsor the program at a particular school—perhaps their alma mater—to provide the program at zero cost for the schools, the faculty and the students,” Lanza explains.

Photo: Hector J. Rivas

In February, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management announced that it was bringing the program to 14 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as part of its ongoing commitment to the schools.

“They don’t have the same resources as the other schools,” says Perika J. Sampson, executive director and senior regional diversity officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. “HBCUs provide access to an under-represented group in our industry. There are not enough Black professionals in the industry. We take a multi-pronged strategy to educate, engage, and employ diverse professionals,” she says. “This is a gap that needed to be filled.”

“What I like about the Barron’s in Education program is the opportunity, the access, and the experiential learning component,” says Ms. Sampson, who is based on the West Coast. “Anything we can do to improve financial literacy and proficiency for diverse students I’m a proponent of.”

Lisa Detanna, managing director-senior vice president, investments at Raymond James, agrees. “Historically we have not done a good job in educating our young adults regarding money, investing, and saving for retirement. Which means we have not prepared them to be good stewards of wealth as successful heirs.”

Plus, she says: "My passion and mission for multifamily practice offices now includes messaging this education to improve our status of our ‘shirt to shirtless’ society as wealth passes from one generation to another. Partnering with Barron’s in Education is a natural fit and one method we are using to broadly spread my mission."

The Barron’s program also provides a summarized faculty edition of its “Weekly Review” news roundup so that it can be used as a classroom resource. And there are webinars for specific universities and weekly live webinars that correlate with current events and concerns.

“Financial literacy is a passion of mine,” says Paul Pagnato, CEO and founder of the wealth management firm PagnatoKarp. In 2018, he agreed to partner and finance the Barron’s in Education program at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, his alma mater. “We became the first school in the program.”

He now also sponsors the program at Penn State University, George Mason University in Virginia, the University of Texas, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. “The experience has been so awesome,” Pagnato says. “I now teach classes at Florida Atlantic in transparency and wealth management.” He also teaches at George Mason.

“It has been so empowering to be with the students and help them with real-world experiences,” he says.

The Barron’s in Education program also brings students to its Dow Jones headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, when possible, for a tour and customized speaker workshops. Students get to visit the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s newsrooms to learn how sourcing in a 24/7 global news cycle happens. 

Tommy McBride, managing director of McBride & Associates and a top advisor at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., has been involved with the program right from the start and now sponsors it at several colleges, including the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, Baylor University in Waco, Texas, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., the McIntire School of Commerce and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, and Paul Quinn College in Dallas, where he lives.

“Education is important to my family and this fits in with our philanthropic mission,” he says. “I was attracted to the program for two reasons: First, I wanted to help educate future generations on the basics of personal finance and the financial markets, and second, I wanted to explain the wealth management career to students.” Plus, he adds: “Most parents do not educate their children about basic personal finances and it is not taught in schools, so most of us learn through trial and error.”

Barron’s also works with career services advisors at the college and universities to promote internships and career opportunities.

“Barron’s in Education continues its goal of making a difference in financial education for the NextGen, teaming with academia and the wealth and asset management industry,” Lanza says.

Photo: Scott Graham

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