The San Francisco Chronicle (California)
By: Julian Guthrie
November 3, 2010
The question posed to the San Francisco eighth-graders was: "Have you ever been ripped off?"
Hands shot up. Cedrick Mitchell said, "I gave my friend $20 for four new wheels for my skateboard, but I only got two new ones. So I had to roll with two nice wheels and two bad ones."
Will deHoo, standing before the whiteboard in a classroom at Stuart Hall for Boys, nodded excitedly. "That's right. You can get ripped off for $20 or $100 or $1,000. Whatever it is, it doesn't feel good. We are here to help you not get ripped off, and to make smart money decisions."
DeHoo is the founder and CEO of FoolProof, a free interactive online financial literacy program geared to teenagers and young adults and their teachers, but with appeal to parents and grandparents.
While there are hundreds of financial literacy programs offered online, FoolProof is not affiliated with any bank or institution that is trying to promote a brand, deHoo noted. And, he said, all of the videos in FoolProof's "Burning Money" series feature kids talking to kids.
"We go into impulse spending, we talk about how a bad credit score can keep you from getting a job, we talk about predatory lenders, and we talk about other ways you can protect yourself financially," deHoo said.
A native of the Netherlands, deHoo, 30, founded the company when he was 23. In San Francisco last week as part of a national tour to talk to kids about money, deHoo was joined by board Chairman Remar Sutton, a consumer advocate and educator; FoolProof Chief Operating Officer Nick Buettner, who founded MayaQuest, a children's online discovery program; and FoolProof associate Joe, whose official title is His Royal Highness Prince Joseph de Bourbon-Parme of Denmark.
At Stuart Hall, where financial literacy is taught in various ways from kindergarten on, deHoo and de Bourbon-Parme took turns peppering the students with questions and sharing anecdotes and lessons learned.
"I just finished my education as a carpenter," said de Bourbon-Parme, who is 21 and introduced himself simply as Joe. "I come from a privileged background, but my family always had me making my own money for things I wanted to buy."
He added, "I'm young. I like to have fun, and I like to buy things. But I've learned that there are some easy ways you can save money by shopping around and taking a bit of time."
DeHoo shared with students FoolProof's Top 10 Teen Money Myths, which range from a belief among youths that they don't have to worry about credit scores to a sense that advertisements tell the truth and all loan companies are the same.
"How many of you know what credit is?" deHoo asked.
Steven Page raised his hand. "Credit is where you use money from a card to buy something that maybe you can't afford and you pay it back with interest."
DeHoo smiled. "That is one of the best answers I've heard," he said, posing another question about the meaning of identity theft.
Cedrick, the student who had lost money on skateboard wheels, said, "Identity theft is when someone takes your credit and takes your identity and you end up being charged."
Throughout the demonstration, deHoo and de Bourbon-Parme paused to show videos, including one called "Sucker Punch." The narrator, a college-age student, talked about how credit card companies try to pull in young people and charge them a higher interest rate because they are young.
DeHoo said that more than 1,000 schools across the country are using FoolProof, and that the program provides students the ability to track and monitor their own spending. There are six modules, and deHoo warned: "Some of it might seem boring, but it's important. It's information you can use."
Chad Gardner, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Stuart Hall who had reached out to the FoolProof team, said after the presentation that he plans on implementing the course over the year. He thought the videos and interactive lessons were "fun and current."
"If my students can develop disciplined spending habits early on and understand the consequences of making bad choices, they will be much more likely to make their money last while preserving their credit," he said. "The presentation really reinforces the core message of being smart with your money. My students left excited."
FoolProof: Educators can sign up at www.foolproofteacher.com. Consumers can access the programs at www.foolproofme.com.
E-mail Julian Guthrie at firstname.lastname@example.org.