Ren Makino - Why I'm Passionate About Financial Education

Jun 05, 2020

In October of 2014, when I was still a high school student, I applied for my first ever job as a student tester for NGPF. This was my initial introduction to the world of personal finance education. At the time there weren’t many people using the NGPF curriculum and there were only three full-time employees. My tasks were to go through the student activity packets as if I was a student in a class that used NGPF material. As I went through it, I was supposed to leave some feedback from a student perspective. Some of my answers became used as the original answer keys. As a fun fact, our projects were once called “Performance Tasks.”

I went through the original Budgeting and Investing units during my time as a student tester. I started to wonder why I was learning these topics at work and not at school (personal finance was not offered at my high school). There were times I felt really bad for being paid to learn. After the student testing program ended, I was hired as an intern in 2015 and I have stuck with NGPF ever since. Along with some very intern-like tasks, such as sending webinar certificates one-by-one, I continued to go through the NGPF material. I also began editing the NGPF podcast, which meant I had the opportunity to learn from listening to all of the full-length conversations Tim was having with experts.


The things I learned while working at NGPF had a profound impact on my life. When I started looking for colleges, I knew I had to use the Net Price Calculator and look for a school with a good ROI. I desperately waited until I was 18 so I could buy my first index fund, open an online savings account with a higher APY, and apply for a credit card to build my credit score. I remember being at school on my birthday and trying to figure all of this out during lunch. I was late to my next class.


I was quite excited about implementing the personal finance concepts I learned. However, two realizations disheartened me. First, I realized that there is a level of privilege associated with my excitement. I had the opportunity to learn about personal finance and I also had enough money to not be a victim to the unjust financial system. I had the privilege to think about a credit card as an opportunity and not as a threat. Second, I realized I had no one to talk about personal finance with except the people that worked at NGPF. For a long time, I had to resort to talking about the newest online bank or credit card with my fellow interns since no one else understood what I was talking about.


In college, I was able to have more conversations regarding personal finance. My peers would start asking why I had the number of credit cards I had or why I would not talk about individual stocks. However, when it came to more complex topics like Roth IRAs, I resorted back to talking to my NGPF intern family. These experiences kept on reminding me about how valuable personal finance education really is. 


I am passionate about personal finance education because it has the power to change the lives of the people of my generation. One day, students would be able to talk about their high credit scores rather than their high student debt and live financially healthier lives. Now that I am working full-time, I hope to continue growing alongside NGPF and do whatever I can to help teachers who are on the frontline positively impacting the lives of people my age.

About the Author

Ren Makino

Ren has been working part-time at NGPF since 2014, interning through high school and college. With his knowledge growing alongside NGPF, after graduating from college in 2020, he joined the team to work full time with a focus on teacher onboarding. He is also the editor of the NGPF podcast and makes sure it is accessible to teachers on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play Music. During his free time, he likes to try out coffees from different roasters across the world and try out new brewing methods, even though personal finance gurus tend to caution against buying a cup of joe.