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Money Smart News Idea Exchange – Winter/ Spring 2016

15 at 15: Principles for Financial Educators Based on 15 Years of Money Smart

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From the FDIC’s experience with Money Smart over the past 15 years, Luke W. Reynolds, chief of the FDIC’s Outreach and Program Development Section (which includes the Money Smart program), suggests 15 principles to help guide financial educators. Following each tip is a link to more information in a previous Money Smart News Success Story or Idea Exchange.

  1. Think about the results you hope your training will bring. “Just as Money Smart participants should be trained to identify their financial goals and develop plans to achieve them, financial educators should know why they are using the curriculum and perhaps the top two or three outcomes from the training,” Reynolds said. “Having clear objectives in mind can also make it easier to line up guest speakers or supplemental resources.” (United Way Uses Money Smart to Help the Unbanked in Kentucky)
  2. Know your audience. Preparing for training goes beyond assessing students’ knowledge and goals. For example, individuals with disabilities may need accommodations, such as the materials in a large-print format, or extra time to understand what an instructor may be trying to communicate. Every version of Money Smart includes a “Guide to Presenting” that offers tips for accommodating the needs of individuals with disabilities. (Tips for Teaching Individuals in Transitional Housing)
  3. Customize the materials to meet your needs. “One reason each module of the Money Smart curriculum is so detailed is to enable instructors to pick and choose what meets the needs of the students,” Reynolds said. “But be cautious about eliminating a core concept that isn’t something participants expressed an interest in learning. Some of those students may not have learned about the subject, so it wasn’t on their radar screen.” He added that instructors may find the assessment tool in each module to be helpful. (Promoting Financial Education at Free Tax-Preparation Sites: Success Stories)
  4. Avoid the urge to develop new resources. “Chances are, quality resources already exist that are free or low-cost and can easily be adapted for the educational needs of your audience,” Reynolds said. “And, remember that the Money Smartcurriculum can be modified to meet unique educational needs without prior approval from the FDIC. We just ask that you remove any references to the FDIC if you rewrite or otherwise make major changes to the content.” (Providing Hope to Youths in Camden)
  5. Think of different ways you can deliver the materials. Classroom-based delivery may not be the only option — or even the best way — to deliver financial education. For example, on a financial institution’s website where consumers can select and open a new account, consider linking to information on deposit accounts on the FDIC’s Money Smart Podcast Network. Financial education also can be integrated into scripts used by bank staff or counselors at nonprofit organizations. And, sometimes materials can support personalized guidance that a counselor or coach may offer a consumer, such as when staff use budgeting worksheets one on one with a client. (Attention! Success Stories Offering Financial Education to Soldiers and Their Families)
  6. Consider peer-to-peer training as an option. Someone from within the target population would be trained first, and then he or she would help peers learn the content, either by helping to deliver it or by being a resource for follow-up. (At Morgan State, Students Team With the FDIC to Deliver Financial Education to Peers)
  7. Draw in more attendees with marketing that focuses on the relevance of the material. “Prospective participants in workshop-based Money Smart training are more likely to attend when they feel the material will be useful for them,” suggested Reynolds. “Sometimes, educators will organize their workshop around a single theme, such as how to manage debt or buy a home.” (Financial Education Through Libraries: Opportunities for Successful Partnerships)
  8. Encourage the people you teach to help others in need. For example, parents may learn from materials children take home. And, immigrants who learn to speak English well can help teach relatives whose language skills are weaker. However, also note that Money Smart materials currently are available in nine languages. (Success Stories: Making a World of a Difference by Teaching Money Smart in Other Languages)
  9. Aim to provide clear next steps. “Financial education is a means to an end, not the end,” Reynolds explained. “Training for underserved consumers could lead them to open their first deposit account, pay down high-cost debt or build a small business. This is an opportunity for financial institutions to work closely with their nonprofit- and community-based partners to prioritize the needs of the population and look at what banking products and services are responsive to those needs.” (From Poverty to Prosperity: Money Smart Success Stories and Tips for Providing Financial Education to Struggling Families)
  10. Pursue opportunities for students to follow up with financial institutions and nonprofit organizations. Perhaps follow up on classroom training with individualized coaching to help consumers identify their next steps. “Or, for example, basic lessons about money combined with a school-based savings program can enable young people to learn by doing, which can develop habits that may last a lifetime,” Reynolds said. (How Money Smart Is Being Used to Promote Access to Bank Deposit Accounts and Bankers as Guest Instructors for Money SmartClasses)
  11. Encourage participants to continue their learning about money. Money Smart is designed to help consumers learn the basics of personal finance, particularly relating to banking services. Students can and should build on what they learn from Money Smart by pursuing additional training or personal counseling on topics such as investments, retirement planning or preparing for homeownership. Encourage them to also visit and to get their own free subscription to the paper or electronic versions of FDIC Consumer News. (Empowering Disadvantaged Women and Families Through Financial Education)
  12. Recognize that teachers, bankers and others already have expertise that they can leverage to deliver financial education. “For example,” Reynolds said, “bankers who help consumers select and open a new deposit account or apply for a loan have considerable knowledge to share. Or, trainers can use their strengths in helping others learn by teaching fundamental lessons about money as outlined in Money Smart.” Reynolds also noted that the FDIC’s Money Smart curriculum “has resources designed for an aspiring trainer to study first, including the ‘Guide to Presenting’ that is available with the curriculum.” New trainers also may team with financial institution staff who bring special expertise on personal finance topics to be discussed. (What Works in the Workplace: Helping Employers Provide Financial Education to Their Staff)
  13. Be prepared for the teaching materials and instructions to change. The instructor-led Money Smart materials were updated to reflect the new disclosures that mortgage loan applicants began receiving on October 3, 2015. Changing industry practices may bring new products, features or services that consumers need to be educated on. The quarterly FDIC Consumer News, online at, is one resource you can use to stay abreast of relevant developments, while Money Smart News keeps you updated on significant updates to Money Smart products. And, at, the federal government website with financial education resources from more than 20 agencies, can help you identify additional useful information on topics such as homeownership or how to avoid identity theft. (Success Stories: Reaching Households Struggling to Survive a Job Loss or Wage Reduction)
  14. For small business training, think of the FDIC-SBA Money Smart curriculum as a supplement, not a replacement, for traditional entrepreneurship training.  “Money Smart for Small Business [MSSB] is not intended to replace small business courses from the SBA and other sources, which are often offered for multiple weeks and are extremely valuable in providing a deep, nuts-and-bolts understanding of how to effectively operate a company,” Reynolds stressed. “Instead, MSSB is intended to provide an introduction to these topics, with a particular focus on the banking and financial pieces.” (Success Stories from the First Year of Money Smart for Small Business)
  15. Document your results and celebrate your successes. Start with the pre- and post-assessments in each module of Money Smart to measure how much is being learned and explore ways to measure behavior changes over time. For example, for students who previously had an account closed because of mismanagement, explore ways to track how many of them opened new accounts and how well they are using them. “Impressive facts and testimonials can help persuade an organization’s leaders to continue to allocate resources to support the delivery of financial education,” Reynolds commented. (A Hands-On Approach to Financial Education: Teach, Track Progress and Coach)

See more teaching tips from the Money Smart Idea Exchange

As we move into the next 15 years of Money Smart, please consider sharing with us your experiences. Tell us about any surprises (good or bad) you may have had using the materials. Please also let us know about techniques that helped you make your Money Smart educational program successful. Send them by e-mail to For help or information on how to use the Money Smart financial education curriculum, contact

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