Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Engaging an audience in money matters

Yesterday was a good day for financial literacy. I left work early to head to a meeting with the Junior Achievement, a group that offers lessons on financial literacy for public schools. Afterwards, I headed straight to the YWCA for my weekly discussion on everything financial. One great cause serving to different audiences, but with one primary goal in mind.

How does one engage an audience to focus on topics related to finance and money? If we remember most of our classes within the same field, we remember boring lecturers and unwanted hours spent trying to complete the homework. Finance in general can be a difficult subject. There is jargon to remember and terms to memorize. And let's not forget the calculations, formulas, and the injected economics we must learn. Then there is the money handling to understand. Whether it's the overall economy or personal finances, budgeting can be a burdensome task.

There are several ways to reach out to an audience, regardless of their age or background. The goal should be to keep in mind what it is the lesson aims to accomplish. The problem with school settings is that many teachers in the financial/math disciplines aim to just get as much of the coursework completed as possible. We see this happen with the sciences as well. Many teachers are not prepared to create a fondness for the subject. The goal is to simply introduce students to the discipline. For that reason, many students wind up uninterested and unfocused in genuinely engaging in the lessons.

Financial literacy must aim to engage. Simply promising an audience that they can learn about budgeting and investing is not enough. In fact, it's a problem. Think of the times when you log in and review your statements. There is more to learning budgeting and similar topics then simply making the numbers tie back. Learning how to manage money helps build dreams and protects futures. You can't possibly purchase a house if you don't understand your cash flows. How else can one keep up with monthly mortgage payments if you don't understand where their money is going?

The key to engaging an audience in financial literacy is to allow them to see the benefits of learning. The same is true for any lesson, but it is one difficult to apply. Anyone making or receiving an income understands that money management is key to living a decent life, but many fail to accomplish that goal. So you reach out to your audience and teach them good habits. You show them how they can buy that new house or car by creating simple habits such as spending less and saving more. Most importantly, you convince your audience that their futures lay in holding themselves accountable. And that starts early, or right now, to equipping ourselves with the knowledge and tools to create a good habit of taking care of our money.

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