With a free financial literacy curriculum and teaching training program, Rapunzl is helping to bridge the country’s economic divide by empowering students to view the world as investors and succeed in financial services careers. The aim of the EdTech program is to simplify finance and level the playing field for regular people.
Today, Brian joins Marc to discuss how Rapunzl helps students take back control of their own financial futures.
In this episode, you will learn:
- What Rapunzl is, including insights into the financial literacy curriculum.
- How Rapunzl benefits students and educators.
- How financial education will transform over the coming years.
- And more!
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full episode, which can be listened to above.
Growing up in school, you probably learned all about geometry, algebra, and parallelograms – concepts that you very likely never used later in life…
If you’re anything like the average person, 10 years down the road, you likely found yourself clueless when it comes to important financial moves such as doing taxes or investing in stocks.
People often view the world of Wall Street and finance as trapped in an Ivory Tower – inaccessible and out of reach for most. Most of what we know of Wall Street we learn from movies which idolize the complex jobs of bankers, hot shot investors, and shady financiers. This creates a fear that deters many from entering into the arena.
That’s why today’s guest, Brian Curcio, and his high school best friend developed Rapunzl, a financial literacy, EdTech tool to revolutionize how we teach students about investing and to provide equitable access to high-quality, project-based learning tools for students across the country. The aim of the EdTech program is to simplify finance and level the playing field for regular people.
Today, Brian joins me to discuss how Rapunzl helps students take back control of their own financial futures. Brian, welcome to the show.
Hey Marc, thanks for having me.
My pleasure. I’m excited to talk about financial literacy today, because it’s a passion of mine. In recent years, schools have begun teaching students more about finance, but still, the majority of our knowledge on money matters comes from our environment, like the habits of our family and friends. As a result, we learn good habits, and we learn bad habits. But I’m interested in hearing about Rapunzl, as it’s a tool that can make financial literacy more accessible. How did you get started off working in the financial literacy industry?
Back in freshman year of high school, I met my current co-founder, Miles Gage. Our lockers were about four apart in the hallway. We were new kids freshman year of high school, and both of us were really interested in investing. The year we met was 2008, during the financial crisis, so there was a lot to talk about. At that point in time, we weren’t interested in financial literacy as much as working on Wall Street, but we remained in contact.
Then, our senior year of college, Robinhood started to gain a lot of popularity, and a lot of our friends began investing – many for the first time. Because they were beginners, they didn’t really have the tools or understanding to do it effectively. That’s when we came up with the idea of Rapunzl, where students could simulate $10,000 stock and crypto portfolios in real time, and then enter those portfolios into national scholarship competitions. We are really just trying to provide a risk-free arena for people to get their feet wet investing before risking their own money.
In 2018, after graduating, we did our first scholarship competition in Chicago.
Can you walk us through a scholarship competition?
So every student starts with $10,000. With that money, they’re able to buy and sell stocks as if they had a real portfolio. The competition essentially tracks every student’s portfolio performance from a start date to end date. The students who earn the most in their portfolios end up receiving scholarships paid into 529 savings accounts.
Related: What is a 529 College Savings Plan?
That’s really cool. What age group are these competitions geared towards?
The scholarships are for middle and high school students, but the app is free for anyone to use.
Who from the schools kind of spearheads this stuff?
Typically it’s the teachers or the counselors, but everyone in the education system is so busy that a lot of the times we found that emailing wasn’t effective, whereas if we just started showing up to schools and saying, we’re here and we can teach your kids about finance today, that was effective pre covid. And then during Covid, I think there was a much greater willingness to start adopting technology in the classroom. And so it’s been a lot easier getting more teachers signed up since then.
Do the teachers, do they have leeway where they can, if this is a tool that they think is beneficial, I know a lot of times they have to follow a set curriculum, but do they have the ability to, or do all teachers, or is it public school versus private school? Do they have the ability to implement this program?
Yeah, so I mean there is a public private distinction. I think that the larger public districts take longer to adopt, but fortunately there is some flexibility on the teacher side that I’m not sure if it’s technically within the rules, but there’s teachers that have recognized, oh, this scholarship would benefit my students. And we’ve been able to circumvent a lot of the bureaucracy by having a mobile app for the kids. But yeah, I think that is a challenge, not just for us, but I think the whole education space is seeing that in these larger districts, it’s really hard to get them to move with new technology and adopt new programs. And that’s part of the challenge of why there’s so little innovation in the education space is that things just take a really long time.
And then how is it implemented? Is it kind of, alright, here’s the app, go to work? Or is the teacher part of the education experience with this?
Yeah, there’s a couple tracks. There’s definitely ways where the students learn on their own and we’ve embedded the curriculum into the actual simulator, but there is a full semester long course as well that supports a teacher or a parent interested in teaching their kids about it. And then we’ve provided professional development, just like workshops to get teachers or parents feeling more comfortable and familiar teaching this to their kids.
What are the different topics in that semester-long curriculum?
Yeah, I mean it’s really everything that you would expect in a personal finance curriculum. So you start budgeting and saving all the way through credit cards, retirement, building generational wealth with investing. But what we’ve tried to do is throughout the curriculum, taking a lens of much more empowering students versus telling them what they shouldn’t do. So typically we’ve seen curriculums, we’ll teach interest rates through credit cards and there’s a lot more opportunities to teach that through building generational wealth or compound interest. And so just trying to give students the reins and let them understand that one day they will be investors and kind of understanding what to do with their money is where we’ve really tried to emphasize more throughout the curriculum.
And how are the lessons taught?
It’s total multimedia. So they’re kind of simulating their portfolio. And then we have videos and presentations for teachers, and then there’s activities and digital assessments through the app as well.
A lot of the education comes from parents. How can they get involved?
We’re still working out right now. I mean, kids can download the app and kind of use the curriculum and parents could download it alongside them. We’re working on building out a solution for parents to access the curriculum the same way educators do so that they can be bringing it directly in the home as well.
So let’s go over, I guess the actual, the competition or the investing portion of it. So you said in the competition they get $10,000, can they do or they are taught how to do research or how to look up different specifics about companies and is that all done through the platform?
So that’s all embedded in the app and we have a bunch of analytics data from Morningstar, NASDAQ, and then Benzinga streams through with kind of company news. So there’s a lot of information in the app that guides students through smart investment decisions and then also different guardrails where you can’t over allocate into one position and put all your money into one stock. It tries to encourage you to kind of diversify across industries as well. So trying to teach students to build balanced portfolios versus just winning the competition.
We run competitions all the time. There’s a scholarship competition for middle and high school that starts in January, and so we’ve had students kind of already begin signing up for that. And then we’re also currently running a scholarship with the historically black colleges that started in October and should wrap up around April.
Does the curriculum meet state or national standards?
So we aligned it firstly with Jumpstart and C’S national standards. And then just being mindful, I think there’s already 27 states that require financial literacy as a high school graduation requirement. And so we’ve taken the curriculum as well and aligned it to each of those state standards just to ensure that when we’re talking to schools, they know that they’re satisfying the requirements as well as teaching kids these important life skills.
I’m outside of the education industry, you’re more in tune… Is financial literacy getting better? I remember when I was in school, there were very few financial literacy courses. Are you seeing an improvement?
Yeah, I’m seeing improvement. I think seeing schools begin to start teaching, it’s really helpful. I think teaching it in high school is a little too late and particularly with a lot of the numbers coming out with students’ math achievement in middle school, I think that we’re running into a problem where high schoolers don’t have those foundational math skills necessary to be certified as financially literate, but I think that schools are recognizing that as well. So as we keep just bringing financial literacy both into the high school and middle school side, I’m optimistic at least we’re talking about it now.
Is the curriculum organized by age groups?
It’s split out by grade. The curriculum is really modular, so there’s a way you can kind of pick and create a course. So if you know that the students are going to have four years of financial literacy, you can kind of scaffold building, starting with saving and then budgeting and then grow into investing. Or if you only have one semester to teach financial literacy, you can kind of cover the hot topics and cover investing, cover insurance and just don’t go as deep on them.
What do you see next in financial education?
It’s definitely going to start moving younger and trying to do financial literacy in middle school. And I think there’s still about half the states that don’t have a financial literacy mandate, so I think that in the next couple of years we’re going to start seeing that every high school kid across the country will have to take some sort of financial education in order to graduate, which makes sense. Everyone has to pay taxes, so it kind of makes sense to teach kids about them.
What do you see coming down the road for your platform?
Yeah, I mean the biggest thing is kind of taking that dashboard and expanding it so that it’s more suitable for parents. And so building out a community for home schools and micro schools to be sharing best practices with the curriculum and kind of supporting third party curriculum as well so that there’s a more unified teaching experience, I think.
Can anyone use Rapunzl?
Yes, the app is totally free to download and anyone can use it. The way we verify if students are eligible for scholarships is using their school email addresses.
Okay, great. Well, we’re just about out of time. Brian, I want to thank you for being on The Agent of Wealth Podcast. It’s great to hear about this tool and how it helps. How best can people find out more about Rapunzl?
Your listeners can go to rapunzl.com to find out more information on the app, the educator portal, and more. There’s also a way you can reach out to us so we can provide more resources if you’re interested in getting your kids signed up.
Great, we’ll link to that in the show notes. Thanks again, Brian. And thank you to everyone who tuned in to today’s episode. Don’t forget to follow The Agent of Wealth on the platform you listen from and leave us a review of the show. We are currently accepting new clients, if you’d like to schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with our advisors, please do so below.