The Beginning of FoolProof:
Walter Cronkite and Will deHoo on the Wyntje
In 2003, 84 year-old Walter Cronkite took 23 year-old Will deHoo on the first of many spins on Cronkite's sailing vessel, the Wyntje, tacking its ways thru the mountain-capped waters of the British Virgin Islands. They talked constantly.
"Walter was a close friend of my boss, Remar Sutton, the consumer advocate, and visited Remar a lot during the winters," remembers deHoo. "Walter and I were both of Dutch descent, and proud of it. And for me, to have the opportunity to talk hours on end with him was life-changing. Starting with that first sailing trip."
A twelve year-old kid focuses their conversation: "I had just returned from a tough neighborhood in Elmira, New York, and was haunted by something that happened on that trip," deHoo says. "A 12 year-old boy was in the audience as Remar Sutton counseled a group of adults on money problems. The boy had been sitting close to me in the back of the room, and it struck me that he was the only kid in the room. He was probably there with his parents, I thought.
"But at the end of the meeting, the boy came up and began talking with Remar and me, very hesitantly. He wasn't there with his parents. He was there to learn tips to help his parents, and to learn tips to keep him from making the mistakes his parents had made. He had three odd jobs to help support his family. I was getting ready to fly to the Virgin Islands for the winter to be with people like Walter Cronkite, and this kid was worrying about feeding his family. It didn't seem right."
"Walter looked at me, when I told him this story," deHoo remembers, "and said, 'Well, what are you going to do about it?'"
From that wind-swept discussion, and with help from Cronkite and national leaders in the consumer, educational, and research fields, Will deHoo and a group of his young friends from four countries created FoolProof.
The first question the group asked: why wasn't financial literacy working? Already literally thousands of financial literacy resources were available. Why were so many adults and young people still being impacted by poor financial decisions?
The answer from experts: the wrong players were shaping the financial literacy landscape.
TIME magazine's Dan Kadlec said it best: Financial literacy programs were basically "a bunch of disjointed initiatives funded in large part by highly conflicted banks and other financial institutions…"
The businesses shaping what kids learn about money were the very same businesses that prosper when kids make poor money decisions. The businesses offering financial literacy "education" for adults were the very same businesses that prosper when adults made poor money decisions.
FoolProof's answer: Develop a resource based on teaching consumer self-defense skills, not fulfilling hidden marketing objectives. "We wanted to advocate for the consumer, not for any product, program, or service," said Will deHoo, now the Executive Director of the FoolProof Foundation.
In the beginning, the group's focus was on helping kids learn about money. But that mission quickly expanded to helping all consumers, particularly those from underserved communities. "Our resources teach the importance of skepticism when it comes to anyone who wants to touch a consumers' money or well-being," deHoo added.
Between 2003 and 2005
FoolProof researches, develops and begins testing web-driven resources for use by middle and high school teachers. Resource testing begins at schools in Corning and Elmira, New York, and in Racine, Wisconsin. FoolProof's early work is underwritten by two local credit unions: Corning Federal Credit Union in Corning, New York, and Educators Credit Union in Racine, Wisconsin.
From the beginning, virtually all of FoolProof's resources for students and young adults are presented in a modular format which allows users to interact seamlessly with each resource materials. The modular format also allows scalability and provided teachers and mentors extensive labor-saving tools.
FoolProof launches the first version of its custom web platform. In order to keep up with FoolProof's growth and with ongoing technological developments, FoolProof's TechTeam continually develops, monitors, maintains and updates the custom software that powers the programs and various websites.
The 2016 release of FoolProof's new in-house-developed FoolProof Content Platform aimed at improving our sites' accessibility, mobile-friendliness and usability. To keep the security of the platform and software at the highest level, FoolProof's head of software development is been certified as a web-app penetration tester and ethical hacker (GWAPT). FoolProof's entire team is dedicated to, and highly involved in, online security and privacy concerns.
Between 2004 and 2013
FoolProof expands its student testing. Page views by students over those years grows from 50,000 views per year to over 19 million views per year in 2013. In 2007 FoolProof begins the production of custom videos researched, written and produced by an in-house video team. New videos are produced every month. These videos appear in FoolProof's modular-driven programs and on consumer news web portals.
FoolProof begins introducing its resources for adult consumers. Entry into adult financial literacy education is prompted by consumer advocates and experts who are concerned about the agenda of many adult education resources. FoolProof now provides an entire consumer portal for adults, www.foolproofme.org.
The new educational portal allows FoolProof to develop extensive and scalable resources for the underserved and for targeted audiences such as versions of resources for non-English speaking populations, persons with credit problems, prison populations, and the hearing impaired.
FoolProof launches its first statewide saturation test of its high school curriculum. The goal: to place the FoolProof curriculum in the hand of as many high schools in one state as possible. By 2018, over 500 Oklahoma high schools are requiring students to complete FoolProof curriculum modules to graduate from high school.
During this time, the State of Oklahoma also authorizes FoolProof to issue certified financial literacy transcripts for students who complete FoolProof's curriculum. Annually, over 40,000 Oklahoma students work through FoolProof modules, and entire school systems are requiring 100% of their students to complete the FoolProof curriculum before graduating.
The FoolProof Foundation receives its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
FoolProof develops at its own expense and launches the BETA version of "FoolProof Military." FoolProof Military is a partnership project of FoolProof, the Military Consumer Justice Project, and the National Association of Consumer Advocates. This BETA program offers both modular programs for entry-level military personnel and a complete website for military families. Resources in this program are being tested by a small number of counselors coordinated by the Navy Judge Advocate General's Office, Quantico, Virginia.
FoolProof launches the FoolProof Walter Cronkite project with the strong support of the Walter Cronkite family.
The project has three goals:
- To place our middle and high school curriculum in the hands of teachers nationally before less effective programs offered by national financial institutions are embedded in schools.
- To raise the funds necessary to maintain our independence and protect the FoolProof Foundation from any business that might want to influence our messaging.
- To expand the reach of FoolProof's teaching philosophy by developing versions of our resources for other constituencies.
Between 2015 and 2017
FoolProof embarks on developing a first-of-its-kind modular curriculum teaching middle school students consumer life skills. This unique program focuses on healthy skepticism and how to identify and neutralize misinformation. Through countless hours of research and feedback from education experts, the FoolProof team develops nine new modules teaching empowering skills while meeting state and national education requirements.
FoolProof begins the development of a web resource for faith and other community-based groups that work with underserved parents. Working with Washington Post syndicated personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary, FoolProof develops a special website aimed at helping parents with limited financial skills. The website features Prosperity Partners personal counseling program and incorporates Ms. Singletary's "21 Day Financial Fast" concepts.
Flanked by consumer groups, advocates, and child education experts, FoolProof for Middle Schools is launched at Newseum event.
FoolProof remains the only financial literacy curriculum in the United States that is endorsed by Public Citizen, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Consumer Federation of America, and the National Association of Consumer Advocates.