How Do You Make a 16-Year-Old Care About Compounding Interest?

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By Erin Dingrando, MAcc ‘16

Earlier this fall, immediately after my 9a.m. audit class, I jumped into my professor’s minivan with two of my classmates and drove to Detroit, laughing about how nervous we all were.

We were on our way to the Cornerstone School in Detroit. The middle school students there are opening their own store, which will be completely student-run. Our job is to help them understand how to operate a successful business.

That’s not exactly how I imagined I’d be spending time during my Master of Accounting program here at Michigan Ross. But after the Impact Challenge during orientation, where my classmates and I won a competition to create a yearlong lesson plan that would teach middle and high school students about financial literacy, I’m thrilled to be a part of the project.

I know this can be an impactful experience for me and my fellow MAcc students, and after we were chosen as the winners I wanted to see the plan through. So I joined the philanthropy committee charged with delivering the lessons.

In preparation for our first meeting with the students we asked ourselves things like, “How do you make a 16-year-old care about compounding interest?” and “How do we capture middle schoolers’ attention for 45 minutes?”

During our first session we divided the students into three groups: marketing, cash, and operations. I was the leader of the cash group, and we discussed the role of cash in an organization, including budgeting and all of the responsibilities involved with collecting money.

Later, we moved into the concept of risk and return, answering questions like “What are some of the risks involved with going to college versus starting a career right after high school?” and “What risks are associated with stocks, bonds, or other investment strategies?”

The students took to the lessons immediately with an interest that surprised us!

In fact, later that day, one of them asked me how a no-load mutual fund worked, reminding me that our sessions together would be much more than just me droning on, lecturing them about cash flow.

We will meet with all groups four more times throughout the year, helping them finalize their store, acting as customers, giving feedback, and serving as advisors. The final meeting will be a business competition that will be unveiled in January.

On the ride back to Ann Arbor after that first day, all our nervous laughter had melted away. Instead, we were electric with the possibilities of our future meetings with these incredible students.


Erin Dingrando is a student in the Ross Master of Accounting program. She is part of a team of Ross MAcc students meeting with Cornerstone middle and high school students throughout the next year to help them learn lessons both about personal finance and operating a business.

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By Erin Dingrando
MAcc ‘16

Learn more about the Ross MAcc