Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What Are We Teaching??

There are two main issues that I noticed when I got into this financial education world, 1) there is already a TON of educational material out there on personal finance, and 2) most people don’t read it. It’s a shame really, because there is a lot of good information out there. But the truth is, if you’re sitting down reading about how to “Pay More Attention to Your Financial Life” you’re probably already paying attention to your financial life.

How do we reach all the people that don’t want to think about their finances? Those are the people that don’t save, go shopping instead of paying a bill, or use money as a way to stroke their ego. How do you get them to open a book on paying bills and budgeting?

Keep it short
Would you read a 200 page text book on how to budget and pay bills? I wouldn’t either. When someone hands me a book I’ve already determined in my mind if this is something that’s going to take me awhile to read or if this is something I can flip through quickly. If it’s going to take me awhile, I better want to read it. Most people do not want to read about how to manage their money. You have to make the book short, easy-to-read, and to the point.

Add a lot of pictures
Sounds juvenile, right? But studies have been done showing how visual learning impacts retention. And many people will agree that if someone’s not going to read the text portions of a book, they’ll flip through and look at the pictures. So I think you should make sure the pictures tell a great story.

Comic strips are a great tool for capturing visual interest as well as telling a story. Do comic strips have room in the financial education world? Absolutely! I hear stories everyday about people with money who make decisions with their checkbook or their credit cards that would make a great comic strip. The goal with my book is to capture the reader’s attention with a comic strip and then add text that will explain the details.

Relevant topics
Now this is one significant problem with a lot of the education material out there that teaches personal finance. The topics are horrible! “How the Banking System Works”, “What is Discretionary Income”, “How to Calculate Your Net Worth”. Many people can go their whole lives, managing their personal finances just fine without knowing the answers to these questions. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t teach these things, but somehow we’ve missed teaching topics people really need to know, “The Difference between Debit and Credit”, “How to Stay Organized so Bills Get Paid”, “Which Credit Card Should I Pay Off First?”.

When we make materials that address the basics of personal finance and insist that we teach everyone – students, parents, immigrants, adults of all socio-economic classes – then people will really have the information they need to make good financial decisions in their life.

Check out my latest book Paying Bills is NOT a Money Issue. Available through our website StartMoneySmart.com.


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