Let’s Stop Saying “Recreating the Wheel”

In the world of financial education, there are indeed some rather often repeated truths… that aren’t very useful.

The first truth is that there is so much content out there that we should never “recreate the wheel.”  What’s not to love about that?  It is a true statement that there is a lot of content.  It is also true that there is no need to recreate the wheel – it is indeed over 8,000 years old.  But that truth does nothing to address the real issues in financial education. Curating, pitching, targeting, and delivering content are some of the big challenges that come to mind.  The content exists but it is difficult to find and effectively use that which you are able to find. 

The second truth that we all seem to love is the idea if people only knew more about their personal finances, they would avoid mistakes.  It is true that there is a knowledge gap on a range of issues.  However, it is also true that knowledge alone has not proven to change people’s behaviors.  Just think about the last time you counted calories.  It wasn’t a knowledge gap that you struggled with; it was likely a behavior gap. So, we are left with the messy world of a lot of financial education content and the associated difficulty of evaluating its effectiveness in changing people’s behavior.   

Money Smart Week® Partners nationwide are working to solve these challenges and raise awareness in their communities about the resources that are available in their proverbial backyards.  Here at the Fed, we are in awe of all of that work and wanted to find a way to contribute to helping solve some of these challenges. 

The Federal Reserve System has a lot of educational resources that we offer free of charge.  You can search by audience types and topics at www.federalreserveeducation.org and over 200+ on-line courses at www.econlowdown.org, which I encourage you to do.  However, in light of the two “truths” that I have devalued in the paragraph above, I have chosen three resources to highlight -- which do some of the things that begin to address some of the real challenges we have: targeting, effectively pitching content and ultimately motivating behavior change

  • For General Audiences, please check out buildingwealth.org A wonderful resource from the Dallas Fed that is written in an aspirational voice that will be sure to motivate all of us to take actual steps to continue to build our wealth.  It also has the added benefit of custom targeting so if you work with general audiences, students, or community groups, you will find something here (on all electronic platforms).

 

  • For High School Students, please check out investinwhatsnext.org. A wonderful resource from the San Francisco Fed that addresses career exploration in most holistic way I have seen to date, with real data from dozens of jobs in each sector. Again, it is aspirational and delivered in a way that seems accurate and engaging.  Try it with your high school audiences; you won’t be disappointed.

 

  • For elementary audiences, there is a wonderful lesson built upon an award-winning children’s book, A Chair for My Mother. It teaches about the way sacrifice and generosity is something built within all of us.  It is a great introduction to money for young children and dare I say for adults as well. 

Good luck with Money Smart Week® 2018!  As always, I will be sure to look up what all our Money Smart Partners do and steal all of your good ideas.  In the interim, please use these resources and reach out if you need help using them.  The webinar I gave recently that covered these resources can also be found https://www.moneysmartweek.org/partners_resources.   

By Cindy Ivanac (Chicago Fed)