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Financial literacy is something that many struggle with regardless of age, income, background, or education, and one of the best ways to educate yourself is to start young. Keep reading to learn about how one of our own is doing more to support financial literacy for kids.
Do you remember the feeling of holding your first dollar bill? Maybe it was the allowance your parents gave you as a kid or enclosed in a birthday card from an aunt. Perhaps it was from your first baby-sitting job or mowing the neighbor’s lawn.
Wherever that dollar bill came from, you might remember feeling a sense of joy and responsibility, and, above all, the power in deciding what to do with your money.
Even though exposure to finances typically begins at a young age, that question of “What should I do with my money?” still lingers for many of us well into adulthood, where a multitude of options (mutual funds, RRSPs, high-interest savings) lay at your feet, but there never seems to be an exact right answer of where to put your money.
As part of Financial Literacy Month in Canada, I sat down with Brooke Henderson, Digital Marketing Coordinator Intern here at Fintel Connect, to talk about her involvement with Enspire, a student-run program for elementary school children that aims to give them the education they need to understand the value of money and make healthy financial choices into adulthood. We hope there will be some insightful ideas for you to take away for your brands or audiences.
Cayla: What is Enspire and how does it build financial literacy for kids?
Enspire is an organization at the University of British Columbia that operates in Ontario and British Columbia. It provides elementary school students Grades 5-7 with a series of workshops that cover different topics of social entrepreneurship. For November, we are working specifically on teaching kids financial literacy.
Currently, I am the finance manager and am part of the executive team for the program. I oversee our sponsorships and outreach. Aside from Enspire, I’ve also been involved in two other similar programs: Enactus for children, and Ennovate for high school students.
Cayla: Why do you think that financial literacy is such a big gap for so many Canadians?
The biggest thing that we’ve noticed in both provinces is that there’s a general lack of business and finance education anywhere in public school curriculam. Some high schools offer finance programs but even then, it’s only offered in Grade 11 when they’re already 17 years old. Kids aren’t being educated young enough about money and general business principles that most everyone should understand.
Another thing we’ve seen is that parents aren’t really talking to their kids about money, and it’s become a very taboo topic. So even when presented with the opportunity to manage finances, kids are very hesitant about it because they’ve never learned how to do it from their parents. They are given money for allowances or make money from things like babysitting, but they don’t know how to manage it or think to put some of it away into a savings account.
Cayla: Are children receptive to learning about things like credit cards and how to manage their money, even when they can’t apply or don’t have a lot of money in general? What are some of the results you’ve seen from your program?
We find that when kids come in to do the financial literacy workshop specifically, they usually have the mindset of, “It’s accounting, were not excited to learn about it” so we usually start off with a fairly muted reception.
However, as we start talking about financial literacy, they realize how relevant it is to them and they get more excited. By the end, there’s a much higher level of engagement with the workshops. In a survey my team conducted, we found that 75% of students reported that they felt more financially literate after just one workshop.
Cayla: That’s a fantastic result. Can you tell us about one of your proudest accomplishments in doing this work? And what is the biggest thing that the students have learned?
It was actually when I was working with high school students, where we challenged groups to create a sustainable business where they had to market a product, sell it, and handle the accounting. Students learned basic financial concepts like revenue minus cost equals profit. A lot of people aren’t aware this is something that most kids don’t understand.
They were also given $100 as a kick-starter to get their business going and had to learn how building a profitable business while repaying the loan – fundamental entrepreneurial skills that they can practice in a hands-on way.
At the end of the year, all of the students in the program presented their business in a competition against other schools and one of the schools that I worked with placed third. Their brand, NunYa Beeswax, featured hand lotion bars made of beeswax, made from scratch and packaged via mini sauce containers donated by local restaurants. Because of the compact form factor, it became very popular as stocking stuffers for Christmas.
I was very proud of them, and it was great to see their knowledge expanded from the start of the program to the end.
Cayla: Some of the Youtubers, TIkTok influencers and publishers that Fintel Connect works with create content around financial literacy. What’s your take on how internet personalities are educating people on financial literacy nowadays?
Interestingly, my perspective on this has very recently changed since working here. I watch TikTok and YouTube but didn’t follow a lot of financial influencers, and I wasn’t always sure if the few that I saw were being genuine about financial education.
However, after working with many of influencers and getting more familiar with the niche, I came to realize that they have a very real passion in spreading financial literacy and helping people manage their finances with the right education and tools.
Also, the third-party perspective is important when it comes to personal finances and choosing what to invest into. Sometimes people are skeptical about a big brand’s advertisements, so influencers do a great job of bringing in a fresh perspective. They are also a lot more relatable for younger generations.
Cayla: What’s one tip that you would give to parents who want to make sure that their kids are set up for financial success?
For parents with younger kids, my biggest tip would be to start talking about money with them at a young age. Talk about things like the cost of certain products like groceries or dishwashers, what minimum wage is, what average salaries are, etc.
Kids don’t have a concept of how much things cost so by discussing it with them, they can have a realistic frame of reference for what they can do with money once they start earning it. It will also help when negotiating things like how much to charge for babysitting, or what kind of wage bump to expect if they got promoted to a supervisor role at their after-school job.
Talking about money shouldn’t be taboo. The more you talk about it, the more confidence they will have when making financial decisions.
For parents with teenagers, my tip would be to talk to them about what credit is on a broader scale. Talk to them about credit cards and loans before they go and sign up for one without your knowledge. They need to understand what interest is and what the penalties are of spending more than what you have.
Cayla: What is on the horizon for Enspire?
Our second year of the program is operating online for Ontario and BC students, but we’re hoping to go back in person in January.
Once we’re a bit more established, we’re really looking to make it an open program that students can join directly. Right now, we work directly with schools, but we’d love to eventually get our materials into libraries – especially with our online program – so that individual students who are just looking to gain financial literacy skills will have multiple options.
My next step with the program is to secure more sponsorships so that we are able to fund the program and be able to give back to the kids.
Cayla: It sounds like there are a lot of good growth opportunities for the program, which is great! If someone were interested in supporting the program or learning more about it, how can they do so?
If you’re a teacher who’s interested in getting their class involved, the best way to do so would be to contact us directly. We are also looking for sponsorships so if you are interested in that as well, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you a publisher or influencer that’s also moving the needle in financial literacy?
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