Most of us didn’t get much financial education as kids – certainly not as much as we would have liked. Now, as adults, we know how remarkably valuable it is, and we’d love to go back in time and have someone teach us all the things we know now about finances.
Except it’s not that simple.
Do you ever remember getting embarrassed being seen in public with your parents? Or rolling your eyes when they tried to relate to you? It felt like they just didn’t understand you at all.
As adults, we understand our parents more, but it’s a stretch to think that, as young people, we would’ve been super-open to their purchasing and lifestyle advice.
All of us hate being lectured to, and, most of the time, finance info only shows up as a lecture.
Bottom line – the best information in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t get through to your audience. And yet, parents and financial educators are tasked with teaching the driest subject possible to the toughest audience imaginable, all without any training in style or delivery.
Not surprisingly, personal finance has a perception problem, a low Q Factor, if you will. One of the most useful pieces of advice I ever got about solving this dilemma is: Perception Dictates Reception. Therefore, to change financial education’s reception, we must change its perception.
At the 2016 Higher Education Financial Wellness Summit in Columbus, Ohio, Dr. Annamaria Lusardi explained that anything less than 5 hours of financial education is effectively the same as 0 hours of financial education. Since I talk for less than an hour, you might have thought I’d be discouraged.
On the contrary, I felt excited, because her message wasn’t “Don’t try.” Instead Dr. Lusardi was saying, “Make sure the first hour is strategically designed to get them to a second hour, and then a third. Because if you don’t do that, they won’t reach competence. The first hour is to intended to make personal finance feel empowering, applicable, and, of course, personal.”
I often describe my message A Comedic Guide to Money as “a first hour of finance.” It’s financial education in jeans. This is why I say “Money” instead of “Finances.”
Don’t get me wrong, there’s also plenty of meat in there for advanced attendees. I demonstrate real-world applications of behavioral psychology principles, teach people how to have money conversations, and make the complex world of investing comprehensible to regular consumers. I also design my content so that you can go in without any background in financial education, and still follow along.
I also teach presenters how to add style to their education, because style is a lens that gives the listener access to the material. Style allows you to build your audience’s knowledge while also building rapport with them. It’s that rapport which gets them coming up to you after a presentation, booking a follow-up with you, or feeling safe enough to ask you their financial questions.
Rather than assuming our listeners care simply because they’re sitting in the audience, let’s make our goal as educators to make money seem meaningful, manageable, and accessible.
What about you? What did your first hour, or first introduction to money, look like? Share it on Twitter or Instagram. And click here to download the first chapter of my book for free.
Colin Ryan, CPFC is the author of “A Comedic Guide to Money,” has been featured everywhere from NPR to The Moth Radio Hour, and speaks all over the country.