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When the band GOODING performed at Miami Senior High School on Tuesday, the show looked like your typical rock concert.
Shaggy-haired musicians dressed in black revved up the crowd with guitar solos while teenagers screamed and waved their illuminated phones in the air.
But instead of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, the message was all about savings accounts, debt and return on investment.
“I think it’s rock and roll for you all to have the freedom to do what you want to do, to be able to protect your families,” Gooding, the band’s lead guitarist and singer, told the crowd before launching into a lesson on credit scores and predatory lending. “If you’ve been struggling, I think it’s rock and roll for you to get a fair chance.”
It’s a message the band has shared at more than 200 schools across the country as part of a campaign to teach financial literacy to young people. The goal is to give teens information about smart investments and financial pitfalls in a format that doesn’t put them to sleep.
And for some of the 1,200 Miami-Dade high school and middle school students who attended the concert, it was the first time they’d heard the message — or at least the first time they’d paid attention.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” said Destiny Bosfield, a sixth-grade student from North County K-8 Center. Bosfield said that after hearing Gooding’s message, she plans to open up a savings account “and build up my credit score when I get older.”
“It was awesome,” said Maritere Rosales, an eighth-grader from West Miami Middle School. Rosales said all the talk about debt had “kind of made me anxious at first,” but she felt better after learning about some of the ways to avoid overspending.
It’s a lesson Gooding, who goes by his last name, said he wishes he’d learned when he was younger. The band’s frontman, who was raised in Kansas by a struggling single mom, said he didn’t learn about saving money until later in life.
“I screwed up my credit score before I even knew what a credit score was,” Gooding told the students. “A lack of knowledge about money can get us in trouble.”
The Nashville-based GOODING has been making music for decades — two of the band members met when they were children — and their songs have been featured in numerous TV shows and movies. Several years ago, the band expanded their mission and helped create a nonprofit, Funding the Future, to spread the message about financial responsibility.
In Miami, the band has partnered with Laura Steckler, a financial adviser at Steckler Wealth Management Group, for the past three years. Steckler paid for GOODING to perform at Miami Senior High because she’s concerned that young people are graduating from high school without the tools to succeed financially.
The state of Florida only requires financial literacy be taught in the 12th grade, but by then, said school district social studies director Robert Brazofsky, some students already have credit cards. “We really feel it’s important to have the lessons early on,” he said.
The band’s formula of head-banging rock music followed by real-talk about money makes the message more palatable to kids, Steckler said. “This is a magic formula,” she said.
Gooding agreed. “I always say, if you’ve got a mic, you should use it.”