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Content, Conversation, and Confidence: The 3 C's of teaching financial literacy

24 November 2016
Author: Carissa Di Gangi (1)
How do you teach financial literacy?

At ABC Life Literacy Canada, we talk about this question a lot. We work with organizations across Canada that help adults with low literacy improve their skills, and we work with TD Bank Group volunteers who commit their time and energy to bring financial literacy workshops into those classrooms. This Financial Literacy Month, that means over 60 workshops being held across Canada, and over 50 TD staff volunteering their time to facilitate them. Since 2011, that means reaching over 8,000 learners. Getting there took a lot of conversation about financial literacy and how to teach it. We've come away from that with three key components: the 3 C's of Teaching Financial Literacy.

1. Start with Content

Our Money Matters program covers key introductory financial literacy topics: spending plans, banking basics, credit and debt, and saving and RESPs. Those topics, explained in plain, accessible language, are a big part about why literacy practitioners want the program in their classrooms: their learners are interested in the material. But it's not just about the financial know-how that learners are exposed to during the workshop. It's about the conversations that the program helps create.

2. Cultivate Conversation

We've built Money Matters around group discussion, so learners can ask questions, highlight concerns, and share advice with each other. This structure keeps the content aligned to the issues that are relevant to the people in the room—key for ensuring meaningful engagement and learning that lasts. 
Getting a group of adults to talk about money management, though, is no small thing. It's personal, it can be uncomfortable, and it's an area where we all have room for learning. That's where the volunteers come in. Friendly, welcoming, and full of the authoritative subject matter expertise that comes with working at a financial institution, they help create a safe, open space for learners. They share their knowledge as well as their own misconceptions and missteps—and they're upfront about not knowing all the answers. That gives learners permission not to know everything, either, which helps conversation and questions come more easily. 

3. The Confidence to Ask Questions

We know two to eight hours of workshops isn't going to complete anyone's financial literacy education. There's too much to learn. But by creating an environment where learners are comfortable asking questions about money management, Money Matters, and the practitioners and volunteers who deliver it, are setting learners up for continuing that education. In fact, it's one of our most important measures of success: that after the workshop, learners feel comfortable going into any financial institution to ask a question. Because asking a question, and knowing where to go to get the answer, are what keeps our financial literacy skills growing throughout our lives. We need the confidence to ask questions, and the right content and conversation can help us achieve it. 

Pictured above: Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples workshop at Northern Youth Abroad, Ottawa. Photo courtesy of Thorsten Gohl.


Carissa Di Gangi is the Program Manager at ABC Life Literacy Canada, where she works across the fields of financial, family, civic, health and digital literacy. She received her undergraduate degree in English Literature and her Master's degree in Cultural Studies from Queen's University.

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