Understanding the “CK” in TPACK: Content Knowledge Critical to a Personal Finance Advisor

According to the National Financial Educators Council, teachers are the single most important factor contributing to students benefiting from personal finance courses successfully, regardless of the learner’s age or stage of life. That’s why the NFEC adheres to the TPACK framework when developing its instructor training program. TPACK, which stands for “Technology,” “Pedagogy,” and “Content Knowledge,” is an educational framework that identifies the qualities teachers must have in order to teach personal financial literacy effectively. Recently the NFEC asked a few financial experts to explain why content knowledge forms an essential TPACK component.

As Michael Eckstein, who owns Michael Eckstein Tax Services in Huntington, New York claims, “It’s incredibly important for a financial advisor to understand their area of practice. We’re being paid for accurate facts or advice.” Many clients rely heavily on the advice of financial professionals, Eckstein explains. “Because they’re paying us, our clients are taking us on our word and, oftentimes, don’t verify what we tell them.” To Eckstein, that means “Not being an expert is, at least, disingenuous and, at worst, unethical.”

The increasingly complex and ever-changing financial marketplace makes solid content knowledge essential, according to Bob Burger of Disciplined Money in Phoenix, Arizona. “You are seeing more advisors shifting to planning rather than selling products,” says Burger. “This requires a more thorough understanding of a greater list of topics. The investment vehicles aren’t as important (my opinion).” And what content knowledge should financial advisors pursue in order to stay prepared? “I primarily use passive (index) style funds,” Burger explains, so “I need to know how markets work and why. If I were using active management or selling annuities or other products, I would need to know the specifics of that individual product. If an advisor is selling products, they absolutely should know the product, not just what the sales manager told them to say.”

The importance of advisors being content experts on investment vehicles they offer to clients is underscored by Harrine Freeman of H.E. Freeman Enterprises. “It is extremely important because the information you provide affects a client’s current and future life,” Freeman emphasizes. Having the right content knowledge qualifies financial professionals to help their clients make key life decisions. In Freeman’s opinion, “The wrong advice could mean the difference between retiring at 65 or working until 75.”

The NFEC requires all its Certified Financial Education Instructors to demonstrate a solid grasp of personal finance content knowledge before they graduate from the training program and receive certification. The TPACK framework ensures that these instructors are well-qualified and prepared to teach financial literacy lesson plans that will have positive, lasting impact on people’s lives.

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