I made the decision to pursue the AFC certification when I moved overseas with my husband. I knew the  job market was slim and I thought this certification would help advance my career when we eventually moved back to the states. After years of experience working with youth in non-profits, this was definitely a shift in careers. I’m not lying when I say I was a little overwhelmed with all the content for the exam and the number of experience hours I needed while unemployed, living in a foreign country, with very little  previous experience.

Girl Scouts

After months of trying to figure out how to best accomplish my experience hours, I reached out to the  local Girl Scouts to see if I could help the girls earn their financial literacy badges. Their answer was resoundingly positive. Suddenly, I was on a new path. Why couldn’t I combine my passion of working with youth with my new goal of becoming an AFC?

Suddenly, I found myself thinking back to the life skill lessons I had taught in an out-of-school program – how to budget for a pet, how to pay for college, what money do you use in other countries – all of these were financial education. I was excited. This was how I would combine my passion and career. Financial education is vital for young people.

So does this mean I think we should teach five-year-old children how to invest in the stock market? Not necessarily. But I do believe that financial education should start at a young age. By starting young, we can encourage them to be curious about finances and all the things that are usually taboo to talk about.  We can teach them how to save, what owning a pet costs, how to pay for school, hidden costs of owning  a car, what it means to invest, and why you should start young. Perhaps by educating children, we won’t  have to educate as many adults because they will already know what financial independence looks like.

I’ve included some practical tips for working with youth below, but even if you solely work with adults,  you may find some useful ideas.

Find something they are interested in.

The simplest way to do this? Ask about their interests.  Pets? Cars? Traveling? Working? Shopping? Show them what money in different countries looks like and talk about exchange rates if they like traveling. Teach them about paychecks and deductions if they want to get a job. Teach them how to comparison shop if they love shopping.

Engage them.

The best way to engage youth is to make it fun.  Financial education can be fun! If you are teaching them how to negotiate a pay raise, have them practice with each other. Print out some true-false or trivia questions about personal finance and play some personal finance kickball.

Engagement may look different these days if you are teaching virtually. That doesn’t mean you can’t engage your students. Use polls, online games, or trivia quizzes to keep them participating. If you don’t engage them, it won’t be enjoyable, so make it fun!

Use the two generational approach.

If you are counseling adults who have children, encourage them to involve their children. Instead of just giving their children an allowance, have them save a part of their allowance each month. If they are planning a trip, they can include the children in deciding how to spend the budget – nicer hotels mean less expensive food options or less activities while cheaper hotel  options could mean more activities and nicer restaurants. Encourage them to find ways, no matter how small, of engaging their children with finances. The more comfortable youth are with money and finances, the more they will ask questions – or even know what questions to ask – which could make  them more financially stable in the future.

If you’re working with youth, encourage them to talk to their family about financial decisions they’ve made – going to school or not, buying a car, their first job. Also have them go home and share what they learn with their family – they may end up teaching them something new!

Learn from them.

Children are curious. They may ask you questions you don’t know the answer to.  Don’t pretend to know the answer – be honest and take this as an opportunity to find the answer together if you can. They will trust you so much more and will love knowing that you are still learning,  too.

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