This 34-year-old teacher says all kids have the power to save big. Here's how

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Gabe Tanglao thanks his parents for teaching him about saving money, and now he’s on the CNBC Financial Wellness Council to continue the tradition.

“I believe economics education is a vital stepping stone in the climb toward the American dream,” said the 34-year-old economics teacher and associate director of the New Jersey Education Association.

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It was his parents’ teachable moments that molded Tanglao’s financial habits and influenced him to talk to children early on about money and saving in order to start them down the road toward financial security,” he said.

“The younger we begin talking about personal finance, the better in terms of building lifelong understanding and habits,” he said. “My parents had a huge impact on shaping my habits and my understanding of money.”

Ever since, he’s been passing along his knowledge and experience to his own students.

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A proud Filipino-American and the son of a union-nurse, Tanglao taught at New Jersey’s Bergenfield High School, located in one of the most diverse working-class communities in the state. Within just five years there, he established a new economics and financial literacy program and secured more than $36,000 in grant funding to harness cutting-edge technology for the classroom.

Tanglao said it was his first job, though, in high school, that really opened his eyes to the power of saving and the freedom and independence building wealth can provide.

“I saved as much as I possibly could to buy my first car. It was a 1987 camaro. I realized that through work I can save, I can reach my financial goals, and that’s a habit that I developed early, and It’s an experience that helped impact what I’m doing now.”

In 2017 Tanglao received the Teaching Champion Award from the Council for Economic Education for his work in the classroom, teaching young students about personal finance and economics. The following year, he was recognized as a finalist for the Social Justice Activist Award from the National Education Association; and in 2019 he earned a Global Learning Fellowship with the NEA Foundation.

“Young people today have the power to change things, change society, change the economy. That’s what keeps me inspired,” he said.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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