It's not uncommon to hear about the financial struggles of former NFL players who, in spite of multimillion-dollar deals, are now living paycheck to paycheck.
It's easy to judge them, but that's ignoring a very real truth: Financial literacy is a privilege often afforded to the already wealthy, not the newly wealthy.
As Justin Tuck, retired Giants defensive end, told Reuters, "Look at the average NFL roster, and most players come from low-income families. They go from being 18-year-old kids with nothing to being 21-year-olds with millions of dollars. ... They get all this money all of a sudden, and they just don't know how to handle it."
That kind of wealth isn't easy to manage, and when it happens in such a short period of time, at such a pivotal moment in the player's lives, it's too easy to lose control and wind up in dire financial straights.
That's part of the inspiration behind Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy.
The solution to being poor isn't just to acquire more money; it's also to know how to manage and grow your money. So in 2008, Justin and his wife, Lauran, founded Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy, an organization dedicated to addressing a number of issues, including financial literacy for low-income families.
R.U.S.H. stands for read, understand, succeed, and hope, and Justin and Lauran set out together to encourage those ideals by donating lots and lots of books — over 86,000 of them, in fact — to children who needed them. They wanted to help decrease summer learning loss, when kids lose a lot of the momentum gained throughout the school year.
But they noticed that encouraging regular literacy was only part of the equation when it came to keeping the kids motivated and invested in their academics. Financial literacy is also a huge factor. So they set out to equip students and their families with the skills, tools, and hope needed to thrive in school, college, and beyond.
Financial literacy is directly related to which kids pursue undergraduate degrees.
As explained in a 2010 Center for Social Development research brief by William Elliott III and Sandra Beverly, financial planning has a huge effect on college attendance:
"We assume that savings and wealth may have two effects on college attendance. The first effect is direct and mainly financial ... . The second effect is indirect and mainly attitudinal: If youth grow up knowing they have money to help pay for current and future schooling, they may have higher educational expectations."
The people behind R.U.S.H. noticed this link between having a college savings account and going to college. Lauran told Upworthy that in spite of efforts to even the playing field, "there were still barriers to college access. A lot of the kids — especially those that were at risk — were responding saying they still didn't think they were going to go to college. They said it's too expensive."
Seeing this problem, R.U.S.H. stepped in with a long-term solution.
Lauran and Justin partnered with a number of organizations and began seeding college savings accounts and raising matching funds. Megan Holston-Alexander, R.U.S.H.'s program director, shared that the initial "seed was $150,000, given at $100 per student. As of June 1, 2015, the accounts have risen another $40,794." And that amount will only continue to grow.
Lauran explained that the financial contributions have been supported by efforts to educate the families so that "parents and students understand why we're saving for college and so that parents understand that their money is going to be matched."
Justin emphasized to families that "if it's important to you, then you have to be prepared to sacrifice."
R.U.S.H. isn't making college free; it's planting the seed of hope and arming families with the information necessary to prepare for their children's futures.
As Lauran stated, "what keeps us going is the 'H' in the acronym, the 'Hope' piece of it. We want to provide for so many kids and families hope, where the opportunity gaps do exist. It's the hope that motivates us."
By giving parents the skills necessary to maintain financial health and enabling them to set up college-savings accounts for their kids, R.U.S.H. helps these communities to build a legacy of achievement. They're making it possible for the kids and their families to see and work toward goals that may have felt impossible. R.U.S.H. is making it possible to dream. But more importantly, it's making it possible to achieve.