Outside-IN

Working with children on financial literacy requires a unique approach

With 'edutainment,' the trick is teaching fundamental concepts in a fun way

Jul 3, 2018 @ 10:58 am

By Dale Brown

The Financial Services Institute is fully committed to helping our members advance the cause of financial literacy in their communities, whether it's by serving as guest speakers at local schools, hosting seminars or simply making themselves available to answer questions from friends and neighbors.

As a result of our consistent outreach, we have seen a pronounced increase in the number of FSI members seeking to give back to their communities by sharing their knowledge of core financial concepts. We are proud to assist them by providing customizable presentations and other resources for use in teaching retirees, pre-retirees and young people, including high school students.

Despite this considerable progress, though, we realize we must do more.

Increasing evidence indicates that key elements of a person's financial habits begin forming much earlier than high school, and in fact may be well-developed by the age of 7. In order to be as effective as possible, then, financial literacy education should ideally start in grade school and continue on throughout students' young adult lives.

For advisers who are committed to bolstering financial education in their communities, this creates a challenge. While many of them are great at explaining financial topics to retirees and even to high school students, getting through to younger children requires an entirely different approach.

As the creators of "edutainment" programs focused on teaching financial skills to young children have found, the trick is to teach these fundamental concepts in a fun way that helps children learn without realizing they are learning.

As one example, newly announced FSI partner DNA Creative has found tremendous success with its edutainment program The Centsables, which centers on the adventures of six animated superheroes who explain the basics of money management through short lessons and fun, kid-centric activities. Originally featured in comic books and later in a 13-episode animated TV series, the characters explain important topics such as saving, spending, investing and protecting assets while battling villains like the diabolical Creditor.

The Centsables program has been highly successful in the independent bank and credit union channel, where DNA Creative has leveraged it to introduce the children of tens of thousands of financial institution customers to important concepts over the past eight years. FSI is pleased to partner with DNA Creative to expand the Centsables program into the independent financial advice channel.

Importantly, effective edutainment programs need to go beyond fun and catchy characters, to make sure the concepts behind the content stick with their audience. The broader Centsables edutainment platform, for instance, includes customizable websites that advisers can make available to clients and their children via their own sites, lesson modules linked to each episode of the TV series and numerous other resources to engage kids and help them internalize financial topics. The program also features websites and additional content for teens and millennials.

(More: Encourage financial literacy by speaking to clients' emotional priorities)

Edutainment offerings on financial literacy can also play another strategic role for advisers and their practices. As baby boomers move into retirement and begin to turn their focus to estate planning, the ability to communicate effectively with younger generations about money and financial topics is becoming increasingly mission-critical for advisers.

By offering events for small groups of clients and their children built around financial edutainment content and lesson modules, advisers can provide another valuable service for the parents and grandparents of future heirs — helping their kids start to learn important lessons about money, saving and investing — at the same time they (and potentially other junior advisers on their teams) begin to develop their own rapport as a trusted resource for the rising generation of investors.

As advisers, teachers, institutions and clients come to understand more about the dimensions of the financial literacy challenge, our perspectives on how to effectively help vulnerable populations such as pre-retirees, retirees, students and even children are evolving and expanding as well.

FSI is pleased to play a vital role in this process by providing our adviser members with the tools and resources they need to reach these groups and establish productive channels of communication with them in order to combat financial illiteracy in communities across the country.

(More: One adviser's journey to becoming a citizen advocate)

Dale Brown is president and CEO of the Financial Services Institute.

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