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Grooming Future Clients by Teaching Them Financial Literacy at Young Ages

If you want to build predicative relationships that produce income, referrals and loyalty, then start seeding your network and community with financial literacy resources and experiences for kids.

Yes. You can get current clients and groom future clients by helping to make it easy for others to teach children about money while kids are young.

By others I am referring to parents, grandparents, caretakers, teachers and community leaders.

By young, I mean kids 3, 4 and 5.

You want to give families every chance to optimize their success as a unit and as individuals. This means starting the financial education and compound growth processes early, when they have the most impact and can make the biggest difference. You want to shape habits and feelings—not correct them—if you are lucky enough to do so.

Let this be clear and plain for everyone to see. Let this be a testament to who you are. As Garrett Planning Network founder, Sheryl Garrett shared with me, it is simple. When you invest in kids’ financial education, it sends a strong message on exactly what you value and stand for. Championing youth financial literacy and making it easy to teach kids about money tangibly demonstrates leadership, long-term thinking and social responsibility. It shows concern for families. It signals you understand the constant pressures they confront daily when it comes to managing money, including addressing the “gimmes.”

Nothing could be more organic and authentic than financial service professionals helping address one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century: youth financial literacy. It’s a threat to kids’ futures and the stability of family life. Kids who grow up with poor money habits and money mindsets seem more likely to turn into adults with those same behaviors, attitudes and feelings. In my opinion, it is a horrific cycle to cultivate and perpetuate.

Kids Know More About Money Than You Think

Here are two things you may not know.

One, adult money habits and attitudes are set by age 7 according to a 2013 Cambridge University study.

Two, research from Ecole Normal Supérieure in Paris, France reveals infants understand more than many adults think.

You may or may not believe the research. I believe it. Why? I have led financial education programs and experiences for more than a quarter million children in eight countries and nearly 40 states. I have talked to kids and the people who teach them a lot about money. What I can share with you with one-hundred percent certainty is, young kids have ideas, feelings and associations related to money.

If you are a doubter, start asking the children in your lives about money. Generate your own firsthand data on the relationship they are developing with it. Find out for yourself what we are hardwiring into their heads and hearts about this essential topic.

Do not be fooled by whether they are able to articulate cogent explanations of personal finance concepts and terms. Stay alert to what they say, think and feel about the subject. Tune in to their habits and attitudes.

What you may conclude is this is exactly the time you can be of the greatest assistance to kids, parents, grandparents, teachers and community leaders. It is precisely when the wealth builder versus spender battle is being won and lost. It is the determinative and pivotal point when you want to sow the seeds of financial freedom and security into kids’ thoughts, feelings and behavior patterns.

Be that voice and source of resources. Impart that financial knowledge for kids and families. Have them associate those memories and mindsets with you.

Here are some tips on how to go about it.

  • Volunteer to read to kids. Read them storybooks with a personal finance lesson. You can do it at schools, after school programs, youth clubs, community agencies or in your office. And/or you can provide clients and community organizations with story books and other “incentives” that teach children about money. Naturally, two of our favorite storybooks are Sammy’s Big Dream and It’s a Habit, Sammy Rabbit!
  • Offer parenting workshops on a monthly or quarterly basis. You can do them live or online via a webinar.
  • Include a parenting tips column in a newsletter or a blog.
  • Write columns for local newspapers and online blogs.
  • Survey and quiz clients, prospects and community leaders on what they learned about money as children. And, do the same with respect to what they are passing on to the kids in their lives whether they be their own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, etc.

Advising Parents on Teaching Money Skills

What should you advise parents to teach young kids’ money?

Start with and stick to the basics—saving, earning, spending smart, giving wisely, investing regularly and tracking your money.

Stress saving. Here is why. Saving has multiple benefits. It’s a cornerstone upon which many other money and success skills can be taught. Saving teaches discipline, delayed gratification, preparedness, planning and goal-setting. Saving protects us from poor spending choices. Saving positions us to invest with less risk. Saving provides more freedom and choices. Saving builds confidence and character. I strongly agree with pioneering research scientist Thornton T. Munger who said:

“The habit of saving is itself an education; if fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought and so broadens the mind.”

In terms of how to teach, I strongly favor strategies that are interactive or participatory. Learning by doing is one of my favorite education strategies. Keep things simple and “sticky” if possible—in other words easy to remember. Here are a few ideas for your consideration.

  • Give kids short money slogans on the core topics cited above that they can say out loud, write out, color or decorate. For example, three of my favorites are: Saving money is a great habit; earning money is fun to do; and save and grow.
  • Read kids storybooks with a personal finance lesson. Have them repeat key messages and phrases out loud.
  • Have kids play store, practice shopping and making change.
  • Have kids write out grocery lists. Or have kids make check marks on grocery lists.
  • Have kids organize and stack coupons.
  • Play personal finance games with kids.
  • Have kids make their own personal savings jar.
  • Sing and color with kids. Sammy Rabbit has several toe-tapping tunes that are available for free on Spotify and YouTube like: “Get in the Habit,” “S-A-V-E,” and “Lemonade Stand.”

If you can help ensure kids master these topics you will have set them up for financial success in life. Those are the kinds of relationships and memories everyone values!

Sam Renick

Sam X. Renick is an award-winning financial educator, children’s author and songwriter. He is the driving force behind Sammy Rabbit and his Dream Big Read financial education strategy. You can learn more about Sam and Sammy at SammyRabbit.com.


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You Need a Story to Succeed in Marketing. Here’s How to Find Yours and Tell It

“The best businesses are the best stories.”

This was one of my favorite quotes from a marketing conference I attended last year because it gets to the heart of what it takes to be successful as a marketer and entrepreneur. You need to develop a story—and then share that story with others.

Stories are compelling because they trigger our emotions. They align (or don’t) with our existing beliefs and values. The ones we like confirm our worldviews and our biases.

All these things play into our decision-making process. As much as we’d like to think we’re perfectly rational when we make choices, we’re simply not. And you need to keep that in mind if you want to convince more prospects to become paying clients of your firm.

This being said, finding success—developing your story and then sharing it well with others—isn’t easy to do, which is why most people (and planning firms) don’t market themselves well. Good storytelling is an art, and even if you can spin a yarn that resonates with others, you need to find a good one to share first.

Here are some of my best tips to be able to both find your story and tell it well.

Make Sure You Have the Raw Materials for Building a Story

I would not describe most of the financial advisers I know as “thrill-seekers.” And that’s not a bad thing. Most people get into this profession because they’re naturally inclined to protect and nurture valuable assets, both for themselves and others. If you’re stampeding through life, taking unnecessary risks and making stupid mistakes, you likely won’t make a great financial planner.

But a little adventure, a little risk and a little discomfort are good things that so often we become averse to seeking out on our own. The problem with that? If you’re comfortable, you’re not doing anything new. You’re not pushing yourself; not exploring or challenging anything; and not gaining useful experiences that you can use as the raw materials for good stories.

Finding a good story is not about dreaming up something more imaginative or innovative than the next guy. It’s more about being able to think creatively to piece together seemingly random, disparate ideas to come up with something new, interesting and original.

Living life and seeking out things that push you just a little outside your comfort zone each time is a wonderful method of developing great stories—as well as getting new insights, finding ways to think differently and giving yourself the opportunity to consider new perspectives.

I’m not suggesting that you be in a constant state of anxiety or discomfort in order to grow or form new ideas. But you have to be willing to step into a situation you know will be uncomfortable for you in order to give yourself the chance to grow, see things in a new light and develop the experiences necessary for a good story.

Talk About Where You Divert from the Mainstream

Ever get that feeling that the crowd is moving in one direction—and you’re doing a 180 in the complete opposite direction? Treat that feeling as an indicator that you might be sitting on a good story to tell.

We try to do this often at Beyond Your Hammock, in both blog posts and on podcasts. We’ve challenged the idea of homeownership as “always good,” specifically pointing out that there’s a lot of pressure for high-achieving 30-somethings to want to buy a home…but a lot of us don’t want that at all.

We’ve pushed against the FIRE movement’s idea that there’s only one way to “financial independence,” and it’s through extreme measures. We’ve been willing to say, you know what? Being good with money is not all about how much you can save. It’s how well you can use your money as a tool to live well today and still plan responsibly for tomorrow.

It takes some vulnerability to stand up, raise your hand and say “I don’t seem to feel the same way as everyone else. I’m thinking differently about this and here’s why.” But these are great places to find a unique story that others will appreciate, because what happens is you give a voice to the things your audience already thinks but might not feel brave enough to say.

Think About What Matters Most to You

What gets you fired up? What do you feel passionately about? What do you believe in with such conviction that you’re willing to take a stand for it without being moved or dissuaded?

These areas of your life make good hunting grounds for stories. What can you share about how you came up with your beliefs? If you have a philosophy or a mantra you live (or do planning) by, what is it and what led you to develop it?

Telling Your Story: How to Share It Once You Find It

Developing your story is only the first step. You also need to hone your communication skills so you can share it with a receptive audience. Keep these quick tips in mind:

Polish your story first:

If you follow the advice above, you might dig up a really awesome story you want to tell—but that doesn’t mean just word vomit somewhere and people will enjoy it. You may need to trim bits and pieces, or just tell us a snippet of the story. You might need to lop off a lengthy intro and get to the point. Knowing what to share and what you can cut out is a critical component of good storytelling.

Aim to form connections, not prove points:

Stories are not lectures or sermons. A story should serve as a channel for connecting with other people—so don’t be afraid to dive into things that feel a little squishy or intangible or not even directly related to financial planning. People want to connect with other people. Be vulnerable, be human and share openly about what makes you, you, and how you came to form your views on how you do business, the advice you give and the people you want to help.

Use the right medium:

Is your story best told with visual aids? Then a podcast might not be the best way to tell it. On the other hand, do you want to tackle something controversial? Video or podcast might be better than a blog because people tend to be more receptive to new ideas when they hear them rather than just reading them. Consider the context and choose an appropriate medium for your story.

Give context to information:

A story is not a recitation of facts. None of us needs more information; if we need data or stats or info, we can ask Google. The value you can provide with storytelling is to put that information and the data and the facts into context. Information is widely available more than ever thanks to the internet. And context has never been in shorter supply.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this piece of advice for developing your story and the content to tell it with (a favorite tip from fellow writer and blogger Chris Guillebeau): When it comes to sharing your story, communicating your message or publishing your content, strive to be educational, entertaining or inspirational—but preferably all three.

KaliHawlk
 Kali Roberge is the founder of Creative Advisor Marketing, an inbound marketing firm that helps financial advisers grow their businesses by creating compelling content to attract prospects and convert leads. She started CAM to give financial pros the right tools to build trust and connections with their audiences, and loves helping advisers find authentic ways to communicate in a way that resonates with the right people.


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Discussing College Funding with Children

More than 35 percent of parents either haven’t saved anything for their child’s college education, or they don’t plan to. That’s according to a study by Sallie Mae.

Another study found that they haven’t been discussing that with their college-bound children. The Fidelity College Savings Indicator study found 40 percent of parents haven’t discussed college funding with their high school students. Encourage your clients to talk to their children about the following aspects of college funding.

Early Planning

Planning should start in middle school. Scholarship aid is competitive, and students need to do well both academically and with extracurriculars to land those dollars. Ensure students are involved in extracurriculars and have proper preparation for standardized tests.

College Funding Expectations

The Fidelity study found that parents expect their children to save around $10,000 for their own education by the time they graduate from high school. But they haven’t told their children that expectation. If your clients expect their kids to financially contribute to their college education, then encourage them to talk about that.

“Expecting children to assume more responsibility for college costs makes sense—but the right time for the college talk is long before the first tuition bill is due,” said Melissa Ridolfi, vice president of retirement and college products at Fidelity, in a BusinessWire press release.

Also, estimating how much the full cost of college will be in order to best fund it is helpful. A U.S. News & World Report story suggests this is critical to figuring out how much to borrow in loans and find in scholarships. The figure should include not just tuition, but room and board, car expenses, gas, parking, books and other miscellaneous items.

College-Credit Courses

Many high schools offer AP courses or allow students to enroll in college courses while in high school. This will cut college costs by allowing students to get a few credits under their belt  before they go to college. This might mean that in some cases, they enter college as a sophomore.

Borrowing Responsibly

Forbes reported in June 2018 that 44.7 million people currently have outstanding student loan debt totaling $1.53 trillion. That translates to an average of $37,172. Encourage clients to help their children be cautious of what types of student loans they take out and the amount of the loan. These figures should be based on how much their student is likely make upon graduation.

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.