Prologue: The Financial Concerns of Future Teachers in Florida

The Financial Concerns of Future Teachers in Florida
Richard Thripp, PhD
Independent Scholar

(To be written)

Keywords: financial literacy, preservice teachers, Florida Retirement System, retirement knowledge, financial challenges, plan preferences, investor behavior, nonwage benefits, personal finance, financial education, pensions, retirement plans, investing, risk, money management, defined contribution, financial concerns, millennials, Generation Z

I have always found personal finance interesting. Sadly, this is unusual. Most people find it dull, boring, uninteresting. This is true not just in America, but worldwide (Lusardi & Mitchell, 2011). People themselves are not to be blamed—there is plenty of misinformation out there, and most financial curricula does a very poor job of capturing the student’s attention. Nevertheless, I find myself frequently lamenting that people should be motivated by self-interest. The return-on-investment for financially educating oneself is immense—perhaps thousands of dollars per hour. There are few places this is this clearer than in the financial planning of preservice teachers.


In the fall of 2019, I completed my PhD in Education at the University of Central Florida (UCF). I majored in the Instructional Design and Technology track (one of 13 tracks offered), completing instructional design coursework, projects, comprehensive exams, and an internship, while also co-editing an academic anthology on online and blended learning (Heafner, Hartshorne, & Thripp, 2019) and teaching EME 2040: Introduction to Technology for Educators to preservice teachers for three years. My supervisor, Dr. Richard Hartshorne, also agreed to serve as my dissertation committee chair. Eventually, I settled on conducting questionnaire-based research of the financial literacy of preservice teachers.

Having dabbled in analyzing National Financial Capability Study data previously, I became friends with Dr. Gary Mottola, Research Director for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation. Gary agreed to come onboard as the lone subject-matter expert on my committee, along with famed motivational scientist Dr. Bobby Hoffman (I am an alumnus of the Applied Learning and Instruction Master of Arts program) and renowned statisticians Drs. Debbie L. Hahs-Vaughn and Shiva Jahani (we wanted the CV line item for Shiva as she may seek a tenure-track position in the future).

There was no particular reason to have three statisticians on my committee, and at times I wish this was not the case—Dr. Hahs-Vaughn was tough as nails, insisting that Likert-items be treated as ordinal rather than interval-level data, taking a specific interest in financial education research including finding publications I had overlooked, and interrogating many of my premises and assumptions in a way that may have gone unquestioned in most dissertations. Being that the ID&T track does not actually have much ID&T coursework, I was able to earn an Advanced Quantitative Methodologies in Educational and Human Sciences certificate with no additional credits using the Core and Electives portions of the ID&T program, which connected me with many statisticians as graduate students in other disciplines who flock to UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education for its exemplary statisticians and statistics courses.

Completing a PhD is an ordeal and an achievement, accomplished with the help of others but ultimately on one’s own. I often say, quite seriously, that I would have stopped at the master’s degree if I had it to do over again. My wife Kristy and I had a baby in February 2019, and I did not get my best work done on the dissertation until afterward. Laypersons are often surprised to learn that I also deprived the taxpayer of tuition along with receiving free health insurance, a $5,000 fellowship, and $60,500 of payroll disbursements. This, in fact, the norm for many PhD students, who are seen contributors to the United States’ scientific output, receiving funding that is ordinarily unavailable to seekers of professional degrees (MD, JD, PsyD, PharmD, etc.). During my master’s I applied only to this PhD program and was surprised to be accepted. I am very grateful for being given so many opportunities at the University of Central Florida. Higher education, particularly at the doctoral level, is considered by economists as an opportunity cost in and of itself, which is why being paid to go is well-advised.

My dissertation (Thripp, 2019a) was arguably three dissertations in one, involving the development of a nine-page questionnaire, the administration and analysis of responses from 314 future teachers in two modalities (print and Web) during the Summer 2019 semester and first few weeks of fall, and a concurrent comparison study of 205 American college-aged, college-attending adults on Amazon Mechanical Turk who I paid $1.00 each to complete the same questionnaire (with the removal of several items specific to preservice teachers). The questionnaire was unprecedented, attempting to measure investing acumen, preference for two types of retirement accounts, and other items in ways that had not been done before or even considered. It also included many free-response (written or typed) qualitative items, and the dataset was robust with participants consistently answering most, if not all, of the items.

Although my dissertation has already been republished as an e-book by The International Society for Technology, Education and Science, titled A Survey of Investing and Retirement Knowledge and Preferences of Preservice Teachers (Thripp, 2019b), this publication has no additions. My committee prohibited my discussion of any of the qualitative data (handwritten and typewritten responses to open-ended questions) due to the breadth of the quantitative data and my lack of time and energy to do this rigorously and comprehensively. Therefore, additional publications are required.

Following my December 2019 graduation, I made an unsuccessful bid as a Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives for Florida’s 6th district, which ended in my defeat by three percentage points in the August 18th, 2020 Democratic primary. Although I am profoundly disappointed, as are hundreds of donors, supporters, and volunteers for the Richard Thripp for Congress campaign, it has been a relief for Kristy, our son, and I to settle into a more leisurely pattern instead of the frenzied pace I have maintained for the past eight years.

The typical thing for me to do at this time would be to write and submit academic journal articles based on my dissertation. However, I am not all that eager to become a professor, and have taught only college students, never grades K–12 (a prerequisite for many such positions). In addition, I would prefer to present the material to a wide audience, without delay, in a less scientific manner that appeals to laypersons. This paper will attempt to do that.

(To be continued)


Heafner, T. L., Hartshorne, R., & Thripp, R. (Eds.). (2019). Handbook of research on emerging practices and methods of K–12 online and blended learning.

Lusardi, A., & Mitchell, O. S. (2011b). Financial literacy around the world: An overview. Journal of Pension Economics & Finance, 10, 497–508.

Thripp, R. (2019a). A survey of investing and retirement knowledge and preferences of Florida preservice teachers (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from University of Central Florida STARS database. (Accession No. CFE0007868)

Thripp, R. (2019b). A survey of investing and retirement knowledge and preferences of preservice teachers. I. Sahin & W. Wu (Eds.). Monument, CO: International Society for Technology, Education and Science.

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