April is Financial Literacy Month. Throughout this month, Associated will share spotlights of various colleagues with notable financial literacy volunteerism. 

Organizations: Junior Achievement, WWBIC and area schools, Kenosha, Wis.
Financial Education volunteerism: 4 years

Tell us about your experience with teaching financial education.
My first experience teaching financial education was with Junior Achievement (JA) at an elementary school in Kenosha about four years ago. I taught their community lesson plan to a group of second graders over the course of five weeks. We spoke about every aspect of the community, and banks were a large part of that conversation. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

In what ways do you currently volunteer in financial education?
Teaching classes with JA made me realize how fun financial education could be, and working in the financial industry has given me a lot of knowledge to help me be successful. I teach a second grade class each spring through JA, and have begun teaching finance classes with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WBBIC) and the local high school. With WBBIC I’ve taught first-time homebuyers and residents at a homeless shelter about budgeting, credit repair and more. In the high school, I teach Reality Days with other area business leaders. The program walks students through a simulation of financial responsibilities they’ll have as an adult, including income, expenses, budget planning, etc.

What importance does financial education play in the community?
Financial literacy helps people become contributing members of society and participate in activities. In the elementary schools, it teaches students key financial principals at a young age. The younger you can teach people, the more time they will have to use the information to make good financial decisions. Many of the classes offered in the community are geared toward low- to moderate-income individuals and the lessons learned can help them repair their credit, buy a home or car, and save money for the future.

What impact has financial education volunteerism had on you personally?
It has made me understand the need for financial education in our communities. I don’t think it’s a focus area in school, and it should be. As an advocate for financial education, I can share my knowledge of the financial industry with others to help people with their financial goals. When I’m able to help people achieve that goal, it’s the ultimate reward for me.

What advice would you give colleagues wanting to begin financial education volunteerism?
The biggest hurdle is often the fear of standing in front of a group of strangers. As colleagues who work in the financial services industry, we have a lot of knowledge about this topic. I would encourage you to just teach a class once. I was afraid at first, but once I got up there I found it was so much fun, and now I love it. The students are engaged—they ask questions and look to you as the expert. It really makes you feel good, and it’s so fulfilling when you complete a class. If you can give back to your community in any way, this is a great way to do it.