Financial literacy may soon be required in WA to graduate. Meet the Tri-City teen behind it

Feb. 26—Ashwin Joshi is a seriously suave, sociable Tri-Cities high school senior.

On a recent sunny morning, Joshi, dressed in a black-and-white suit and Louis Vuitton belt, could be mistaken for a Wall Street banker or a James Bond stand-in in the halls of Southridge High School.

That’s just his style.

“I believe in setting an example. I believe in being the best you can be,” Joshi, 18, told the Tri-City Herald.

He also believes his peers are being short changed.

Many of his classmates don’t know how to responsibly manage, invest or spend their hard-earned money, and Joshi says that needs to change.

“I feel It’s a necessary skill that needs to be taught,” he said.

That’s why the Southridge senior is a prominent voice lobbying for passage of a bill in the Washington Legislature that would require schools to offer high school students a half credit of financial education beginning in the 2027-28 school year.

Financial education should be a fundamental right offered to every student, Joshi said. It’s an idea that just makes sense.

“Every single one of us spends money on an almost-daily basis or daily basis. Look at the statistics: Inflation continues to increase, cost of living continues to increase, homelessness continues to increase, the rising number of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck continues to increase,” he said.

House Bill 1915 passed the House earlier this month on a unanimous and widely bipartisan 97-0 floor vote. And Wednesdya it passed out of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education, moving a step closer to a final floor vote and Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk for signing.

The bill’s prime sponsor, state Rep. Skyler Rude, R-Walla Walla, says the curriculum is “vital” for graduating students.

“Empowering students with a tool like financial education is a catalyst for unlocking greater opportunities and success in their futures,” Rude said in a public statement.

The bill also has earned the support of Washington State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti, who said the House’s passage was a clear signal that Washingtonians are eager to incorporate the skills into public education.

The Kennewick School Board passed a resolution Feb. 13 supporting the bill and Joshi’s work.

“In knowing Ashwin for such a short time, he has proven himself to be one of the most driven students that I have ever worked with,” Southridge Principal John Griffith told the Herald in a statement. “It is no surprise that his work on this bill is going to make a difference for all the students of Washington.”

Ashwin Teen Financial Academy

Joshi is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Ashwin Teen Financial Academy, which aims to offer free and essential financial education to teens worldwide through online courses. It was founded in 2022 with a mission to help “students reach their maximum potential.”

The organization’s courses cover topics including budgeting and saving, side hustles, cryptocurrencies, credit, stocks, taxes and 401(k) plans.

This has been a labor of love for Joshi, who is driven by a goal he’s had since his freshman year — that every kid, regardless of income, race or circumstance, is able to learn critical life skills, such as budgeting and taxes, so they have a running start at life.

“It is necessary to ensure prosperity for parents, kids, students, and even their future families,” Joshi said.

His love for finance began at a young age. The son of Indian immigrants, Joshi watched as his parents pursued their own entrepreneurial ambitions through investing in gas stations while his father supported the family with his work as a physician.

He remembers seeing how hard his parents worked to make a living and felt inspired by their ambition.

As most kids do, Joshi opened his own lemonade stand. By the time he was 6, he had opened his first checking account.

“The other kids called the school playground theirs, but my playground was my family’s first gas station,” Joshi said with a smile. “I prided myself in calling myself the world’s fastest shelf restocker.”

By 8th grade, Joshi’s classmates began approaching him with questions about what to do with their allowances. He thought the question was peculiar because he and his family talked about money openly and frequently.

“I asked them, ‘Do your parents not talk with you about money?'” he recalls. “That was a very big shock moment for me… At that moment, I realized there were so many kids who unfortunately don’t get that same type of privilege that I had.”

As Joshi transitioned into high school, he was baffled to learn that Southridge High didn’t require personal finance as part of its core curriculum of instruction. To better understand the cultural aspects of finance, he eventually started a money-for-teens blog that would later become his nonprofit and read the popular financial book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” during COVID.

He eventually came to the conclusion that a teens-teaching-teens model could help students. So, coming out of the pandemic, Joshi hit the ground running to develop his nonprofit and get the word out.

“Kids are interested in this. I think COVID really brought about this age where kids want to be more financially independent,” he said.

HB 1915

In April 2023, he conducted a survey of 324 Southridge students with the help of teachers. Among the questions, Joshi asked them how prepared they felt facing future financial challenges. A mere 22% responded saying they felt confident at all.

“The data was extremely crushing,” he said.

He took his findings to the superintendent and eventually the school board, giving a 30-minute talk on the subject at one of their meetings. Joshi was eventually connected with Rep. April Connors, R-Kennewick, who approached Rude, the ranking minority member on the House Education Committee, about a bill.

By the holidays, Rude had prefiled HB 1915 to be considered in the 2024 legislative session. And on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Joshi was among the first to testify in support of the bill during a hearing in the House Education Committee.

The biggest lesson Joshi’s taken from this process is to follow your passion and to not compare yourself with others. Stay focused and success will follow.

“It’s easy to get distracted by the white noise. But it’s even harder to follow that passion and trust the process,” he said.

This story was originally published February 26, 2024, 5:00 AM.

(c)2024 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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