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Making a Meaningful Difference: Increasing Financial Literacy

There is a looming crisis in the U.S., and financial advisors are in a prime position to make a meaningful difference with this problem.

It should come as no surprise that the lack of financial literacy in the U.S. is dismal.

While the U.S. is the largest economy in the world, the U.S. adult financial literacy level is 57%. It ranks number 14 when measuring adults who are financially literate in comparison to other countries around the world.

What’s even more interesting is that there is also an epic fail with the financial literacy of U.S. youth. One in 5 U.S. teenagers lack basic financial literacy skills.

According to the Council for Economic Education, only 19 states in the U.S. require students to take a personal financial education class.

The conclusion that can be drawn is this crisis just might become worse before it gets better.

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Advisors Agree

According to a study conducted by Investment News, 78% of financial advisors strongly agree that financial literacy is an issue in the U.S.

However, only 41% of financial advisors are currently involved in an initiative related to improving financial literacy.

As a financial advisor, you possess a truly noble calling. You can make a powerful difference with your tremendous gift of financial knowledge and expertise.

Get Involved

If you haven’t done so already, get involved now. Make it your mission to increase financial literacy with your clients and prospects in your business and in your local community.

Help to empower your clients who are grandparents and parents to increase financial literacy with their grandchildren and children. You have a profound ability to improve this crisis with the generations to come and to make an impact.

You should also consider empowering teachers and other leaders in your community to increase financial literacy and education.

Where to Start

One of the simplest acts you can take that you might already do is to increase educational content on your website, blog and social media channels about the basic fundamentals of finance.

You can also consider volunteering your expertise at your local library, church, community college and high school to teach solid money-sense skills. Libraries, in particular, are always open to new ideas to involve the community and offer programming.

If your passion is younger children, consider middle schools, elementary schools and even preschools. After all, it is never too early to educate youth on good money-sense.

Be sure to research the content or curriculum that you want to use. The Council for Economic Education, Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy and the Junior Achievement USA are just a few organizations that you can look at for content. There are numerous other organizations if you do a quick online search. Most advisors use an existing and proven program rather than starting a brand new one from scratch.

You can also look for opportunities to participate in career days at local schools. Local community colleges and universities are a great opportunity as well. Professors and faculty welcome outside speakers to speak to their classes, especially in the business and finance departments.

Find Your Passion

It is important for you to identify what you are most passionate about. Ask yourself is your role better as a presenter of content to large groups or as a mentor to small groups? Perhaps one-on-one coaching is the most ideal for you.

Do you want to mentor high school or college students who are interested in exploring a career in finance? Do you want to do pro bono financial planning work for families in underserved communities or identify families in need in your own community or school district?

In addition to finding your passion, it is important to decide how much time you can devote to your mission and to follow through. Do you have time to give weekly, monthly, quarterly or twice a year? Identify what is best for you and commit to it.

You also do not need to go it alone on this mission. Seek out other financial advisors in your market who share the same passion and partner together on these efforts to make an even bigger impact.

Educate Your Clients

While reaching out to your community and giving back is gracious, as previously mentioned it is also important to focus on educating your current clients and prospects to ensure they are financially literate, as well as their children and grandchildren.

Develop handouts as part of your marketing collateral to give to your clients’ children and grandchildren to help educate them on finance basics. Suggest money apps that are geared towards children, such as Bankaroo, PiggyBot and Coin Math. Create a list of the most popular ones and include them in your handouts and on your website.

Make a list of your favorite finance books. Include juvenile level books too, such as One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent and The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Money. Consider purchasing copies of your favorite adult and juvenile financial books and give them as gifts to clients and prospects.

If you sponsor local community events or have a booth at local festivals, handout financial literacy educational materials in addition to marketing items that promote your firm and overall brand.

If you don’t already, host financial workshops and events focused on the importance of financial literacy. Build events that are focused on teenagers and children, and encourage your clients to invite their children and grandchildren. Coach them to pretend to start investing in company stocks with a small initial investment. Encourage them to watch or read the financial news together.

Most importantly, urge your clients to have money conversations with their children and grandchildren at home. Talking about financial matters at home has become completely taboo in society today. Many parents are more likely to talk about sex with their children than money. Talking about money at home is a crucial skill to becoming a fiscally responsible adult.

The Bottom Line

There is an urgent call to action to improve the financial literacy gap. This problem is far too large to ignore.

Your expertise is unique and you are in a position to make a meaningful difference with future generations. This is also a wonderful way to connect with multiple generations with your current client relationships.

If you have been looking for a way to make an impact and need more purpose in your life, this is it! And, as a bonus, the more you give, the more you will receive back both personally and professionally.

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