Successful Money Class Tips: Use Fun Activities, Personal Anecdotes to Engage Audiences

Many people have a desire to give back to their communities by teaching others how to manage money properly. But the economy and financial products are constantly changing and increasingly complex; keeping up-to-date on the latest information is a challenge. For prospective educators who lack formal financial training, that challenge can turn into a roadblock. Recently a group of expert professionals weighed in with suggestions for how educators, volunteers, and concerned citizens without a financial background could prepare to teach financial literacy lessons.

According to Tammy Johnston with The Financial Guides in Calgary, Alberta, the most important element of a successful financial education class is that it be as fun as possible. “Money classes…are usually so boring that people would pretty much rather be doing anything else than sit in the class fighting to stay conscious,” Johnston comments. “Make it relatable to their lives. Use anecdotes to illustrate how each concept plays into real life. People learn from, relate to, and remember stories. Stories get people to ACT because it hits them in the emotions, which are the only true motivating factor.” Johnston is author of the Financial Foundations book series that takes kids on a journey toward financial wellness. She also recommends boning up on the basics by reading bestsellers like Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki and The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley.

Money lessons must be practical and directly applicable to people’s lives, suggests Maria Townsend, owner of Business Darling. “Do an exercise first,” Townsend says, “I always bring handouts so they can factor in what their normal monthly costs are. I would also have a user-friendly budget spreadsheet that they can keep up and maintain themselves.” Helping participants set goals based on their own individual situations is a crucial component for success, recommends Townsend. “Everyone that you teach has to leave with a plan. Otherwise they will not do anything that you have taught. Make sure that they have their own personal goals written and help them achieve it using their own income.” Townsend also advocates incorporating personal stories into the presentation: “Try to be as personable as possible,” she says.

Teaching fundamental concepts and their potential impact on a person’s future is the recommendation of Ilene Davis, CFP® of Cocoa, Florida. Davis suggests, “Teach the basics of compound interest, inflation, and how both can dramatically affect the funding needed for a secure and comfortable future.” In Davis’s experience, preparing for financial instruction should include reviewing some typical questions that, after attending a presentation, the audience should be able to answer. For example: “Jim wants income of $200,000 a year, increasing 3% each year for 30 years. He wants to know how much he would need to invest if his money earned 5%, versus if it earned 7% a year.” Listing such questions and being prepared to answer them will serve as invaluable preparation for anyone who desires to start teaching personal finance.


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