Washington DC
Jerrid Burdue following his presentation given in front of the Capitol Mall with Emanuel Oliveira and Dean Johnson.

Michigan Tech student Jerrid Burdue heads to the capitol.

Imagine what America and the world will look like 40 years from now. What do we need to do today to make sure the current generation of young people will be financially secure when they retire? One Michigan Tech undergraduate, Jerrid Burdue, has an award-winning answer that netted him $5,000 and an opportunity of a lifetime. It was part of a hands-on learning effort that encourages students to think beyond the classroom and envision practical solutions to real-world problems.

Burdue, a third-year economics student from Niles, Michigan took first place in the iOme Challenge, a national competition designed to raise awareness about how financial security in retirement affects the social and economic well-being of our country. His winning proposal also came with a trip to Washington, D.C., and the chance to meet with high-level policy makers to discuss his ideas.

Jerrid with Senator Debbie Stabenow, Dean Johnson, and Emanuel Oliveira
Jerrid with Senator Debbie Stabenow, Dean Johnson, and Emanuel Oliveira

This year’s contest, overseen by the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), challenged students to envision serving as the President-Elect of the Council of Economic Advisors. In this role, they were invited to create a new private retirement system to better accommodate the savings needs of Millennials. Burdue and the other contestants presented their ideas in essays and short videos.

Burdue’s solution called for K-12 basic personal finance education for all US schools–understanding credit and balancing a budget–that would give students a base level of financial knowledge.

One idea that especially resonated with the US Treasury, was Burdue’s call for more widespread use of the Treasury’s low-risk retirement savings program that carries no fees and no minimum opening balance. He recommended eliminating the current $15,000 savings limit and integrating myRA with his proposed basic financial education for students. The foundation of his proposal was the creation of a smartphone app that would work much like Apple Pay or Google Pay. Users would pay for transactions with their phones, but with each purchase they would be prompted to add a small additional amount to their myRA accounts. Burdue sees this as a simple way to put money aside for retirement on a regular, long-term basis.

In June, Burdue received invaluable hands-on experience when he attended the WISER Forum in Washington, D.C. along with Michigan Tech’s Assistant Professor of Economics, Emanuel Oliveira, and Interim Dean of the School of Business and Economics, Dean Johnson. “Traveling to Washington, D.C. for the WISER Forum was an incredible experience,” Burdue says. “I was able to meet both US Senators from Michigan and to discuss my winning essay in detail with the Honorable Phyllis Borzi, Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Labor, Mark Iwry, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of the US Treasury, staffers from two House committees, and one from the Senate HELP Committee.”

Jerrid explains his proposals to Senator Gary Peters.
Jerrid explains his proposals to Senator Gary Peters.  

Burdue joined WISER representatives and last year’s iOme Challenge winners for in-depth conversations with these influential leaders concerning the importance of Millennial retirement. “The most rewarding part was being able to present my ideas surrounding the myRA smartphone app and changes to the program with Mark Iwry, who was at the core of myRA’s development. Mr. Iwry really enjoyed my ideas and stated he will push for the US Treasury to develop my proposed app.” Burdue, Johnson, and Oliveira also spoke with Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters about the value of Michigan Tech’s hands-on education and several entrepreneurship initiatives that support job creation and small businesses. 

Oliveira, who served as Burdue’s faculty advisor for the iOme Challenge, was very positive about his student’s ideas and the trip to D.C. “Jerrid’s analysis and recommendations were very well received by all and may end up being adopted in future policies designed by the US Treasury, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.