‘Money Matters’ program teaches teens financial literacy


Holly Tyrrell and Chriss Spires work for two separate financial services companies in the Jacksonville area, but at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, they come together as teachers of a financial literacy class for local teenagers.

Tyrrell – associate director and relationship manager for Legacy Trust Family Wealth Offices in Ponte Vedra Beach – and Spires, partner and senior advisor for Montoya & Associates in Jacksonville, are members of the Beaches Boys & Girls Club Unit Board, and the program they’re teaching is called “Money Matters.” Developed by the Boys & Girls Club in collaboration with the Charles Schwab Foundation, the program uses interactive activities taught by local mentors in the financial industry to educate teens ages 13 to 18 on critical aspects of financial literacy.

Tyrrell and Spires are the first to manage the program within the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Florida network. They view the program as two Beaches financial firms joining with one common goal: to help teens move on the path toward budgeting, saving, college and financial freedom.

“We’re helping them now so we don’t have to help them in the future,” said Spires, a Ponte Vedra resident. “It’s the ultimate give back, right?”

The finance duo has been holding the sessions every week at the Boys & Girls Club located at 820 Seagate Ave. in Jacksonville Beach since January. Their classes typically include around 10 teens, all of whom volunteer to attend, and feature topics ranging from managing a checking account to avoiding debt and investing.

At a session on March 15, for example, they helped a group of six teens create vision boards to encourage them to visualize their goals and think about how they may correlate to financial independence. As the group cut pictures out of magazines strewn across a table, one teen asked another, “You want to be a lawyer, right?” She responded, “No, I want to be a psychologist,” while another participant spoke about her plans to attend Emory-Riddle Aeronautical University to become a pilot.

Tyrrell retreated from the group and said, “If we can change the life of one child, our work has been impactful.”

Her favorite session so far has been “How to Pay for Prom,” which prompted the teens to budget how they would spend their money for each of the event’s various components, including tickets, dinner, and suits and dresses. Another session enabled participants to learn about stock tickers and find different companies with the use of smart phones, computers and The Wall Street Journal.

Tyrrell and Spires said perhaps the most rewarding part of the experience has been learning that the teens are taking the lessons home and sharing the various financial concepts with their siblings and parents.

“The engagement is remarkable,” said Spires, a Neptune Beach resident. “This isn’t a lost generation. They’re coming in here enthusiastically, and if given the right chance, they’re going to do awesome things.”