Steve Kautz

Written By

Steve Kautz

Financial Education Programs Specialist
Finance Authority of Maine

Welcome – Financial Education in Maine

March 28, 2024
Welcome – Financial Education in Maine

My name is Steve Kautz, and I am a Financial Education Programs Specialist at the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). I visit schools and businesses, deliver webinars, attend events, write, and try just about anything else I (or my boss and colleagues) can think of to promote financial wellness in Maine. Before starting with FAME in July 2023, I taught math, economics, and personal finance for 20 plus years, worked as a training coordinator for the Maine Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Education, and served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in the Czech Republic ’95-’97.

Joining FAME has been a legitimate career milestone, not simply because it’s a great place to work, with a mission I share, but because it has allowed me the opportunity to join a committed agency and scale my efforts in financial education statewide. FAME’s myriad of resources and programs designed to improve the economic lives of Mainers through business growth and stability, education, and financial capability, enable me to do something I love and believe in every day.

Welcome to my blog and to Financial Literacy Month (yes, it’s a thing, every April).

On December 13, 2023, Pennsylvania became the 25th state to require a standalone personal finance course for high school students. One organization leading the charge is Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF), and they use the phrase, “guarantees a standalone personal finance course” for high school students. Maine is not one of the 25 states to require or guarantee a standalone personal finance course for high school students. Recent attempts (in the form of LD 1284) at the Legislature to achieve this for Maine high school students have not been successful. 

So, for at least another legislative session or another year (likely more), FAME will keep advocating for Maine’s high school students to have guaranteed access to personal finance education in some form before graduation. 

Randomly selected, but not randomly focused statistics:

  • 88% of American adults surveyed say that personal finance should be a high school graduation requirement (NEFE – National Endowment for Financial Education study, 2022)
  • 60% of US adults are living paycheck to paycheck (Lending Club Corporation, 2023)
  • $152,000 = the total cost of a four-year degree at a public university (Educationdata.org findings, which include lost income opportunity and interest on loans)
  • 18 = the official age when we ask someone to take on the above-mentioned financial decision
  • Credit score… yuck. We all know what it is, and the simple fact it exists and stays with us, like that old pair of shoes you just can’t get yourself to toss, should be enough to make financial education as integral a part of schooling as US history.

So, am I here to convince you that Maine needs to find a way to ensure equal access to financial education? Not really, because I know that, statistically speaking, I am preaching to the choir. 

However, there is a connection.

Right now, in Maine, there are already bunches of teachers teaching personal finance to even bigger bunches of students. This is happening through required classes, electives, seminars, clubs, and competitions. This is happening even though the state doesn’t require it. And behind these teachers there are more teachers and organizations providing training and curriculum support. This is happening because the adults in the room care about giving our kids – our state – a fighting chance out there in the American economic wilderness. 

This blog/newsletter/semi-organized-words-on-your-screen is about personal finance, money, and the need to talk about money. It’s just another small way of promoting financial education in any way I can, one person at a time if necessary, until Maine becomes the 26th state (and even then, I’ll still be fighting to deliver what we promise). 

Let’s Chat

I’m not an expert on building wealth, financial markets, or bond prices. What I am is someone who spent many years making financial mistakes and many more years working to overcome them. Along the way, I started telling my stories and teaching personal finance fundamentals – sometimes teaching what I was still learning myself. I am – I have become – an expert in taking my love for numbers, an understanding gained from my own money mistakes, and my keen eye for economics and turning them into a way to engage my community to navigate the opportunity-filled yet hazard-laden American financial system. 

I’m not here to deliver or teach the details, although I will provide resources to that end. I’m here to push the conversation about personal finance so that Maine’s youth, and ultimately all Mainers, benefit. I want to do this as if we were sitting around a table, coffee in hand, learning from each other.

I’ll tell my stories and offer thoughts on everything from interest to banking to credit cards and more. I’ll ask former students for their stories and how having had personal finance in high school has affected them. I’ll ask you to search for your experiences and get in touch with your own money story.

Join me for a few minutes a month?

About the Author:

Steve has worked on financial literacy efforts in Maine since 2004, and in July 2023 he started at FAME as a Financial Education Programs Specialist. He has a B.S. in economics from Southern Connecticut State University, an MBA from the University of Hartford, and he has served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer.

In the fall of 2003, he started a 20-year connection to the Waynflete School in Portland, where he taught math and personal finance, advised middle and upper school students, and coached baseball. Steve worked with students to create the Finance Club and an award-winning LifeSmarts team (Nationals 2013, 2014, and 2015). In 2011, Steve coached a Waynflete team to victory in the Boston Federal Reserve Economics Cup Challenge.

Steve was named Maine Jump$tart Financial Educator of the Year for 2012, was the keynote speaker at the Maine Jump$tart Annual Teacher Conferences in 2015 and 2023, and was Maine Jump$tart’s training coordinator from 2017 to 2023.

Steve and his family moved to Seville, Spain in July 2016 where he taught English and business English and learned many new personal finance lessons. He now lives in Portland with his wife and their son.

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About the Author:

Steve has worked on financial literacy efforts in Maine since 2004, and in July 2023 he started at FAME as a Financial Education Programs Specialist. He has a B.S. in economics from Southern Connecticut State University, an MBA from the University of Hartford, and he has served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer.

In the fall of 2003, he started a 20-year connection to the Waynflete School in Portland, where he taught math and personal finance, advised middle and upper school students, and coached baseball. Steve worked with students to create the Finance Club and an award-winning LifeSmarts team (Nationals 2013, 2014, and 2015). In 2011, Steve coached a Waynflete team to victory in the Boston Federal Reserve Economics Cup Challenge.

Steve was named Maine Jump$tart Financial Educator of the Year for 2012, was the keynote speaker at the Maine Jump$tart Annual Teacher Conferences in 2015 and 2023, and was Maine Jump$tart’s training coordinator from 2017 to 2023.

Steve and his family moved to Seville, Spain in July 2016 where he taught English and business English and learned many new personal finance lessons. He now lives in Portland with his wife and their son.