Opinion October 25, 2016 | 2:55 pm

Make a difference: become a Financial Educator

Teaching personal finance topics can be immensely rewarding because the lessons are often immediately applicable to many students’ lives. Whether you’re comparing financial products, creating a budget or evaluating the cost of a loan, financial literacy provides the foundation to make a well-informed decision. Even so, many people get little to no financial education.

According to a study from the Council for Economic Education, 45 states include personal finance in their K-12 standards, but only 17 states require high school students to take a personal finance class before graduating. After grade school, one might find financial education courses at colleges, universities or employers, but they’re rarely required.

If you have a passion for financial literacy, consider passing on your knowledge and helping your community change for the better. Whether you’re volunteering at a grade school or teaching a course at a local community center, teaching money management skills can help improve others’ future financial prospects and encourages community connection and growth.

Decide what to teach and take advantage of free resources. There are a wide range of lessons that students of different ages and backgrounds will need, from informative presentations for older adults who are targets of scammers to lessons for high school students who need to learn how to handle finances in college.

Prepare for your outreach by identifying the financial topics you want to teach. You can draw from your own strengths and experiences, which can be an effective way to help students relate to the lessons. However, there are also free educational materials you can use to design your personal finance course.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has comprehensive free curricula for adults and young people in grades K–12, as well as a curriculum tailored to the needs of older people. Visa’s Practical Money Skills also offers curricula, lesson plans and educational games for students from Pre-K to college, including those with special needs. A simple Internet search can also turn up results for any financial lesson imaginable.

Focus on practical and interactive lessons. Incorporating interactive elements into the mix can supplement financial literacy curriculum and help lessons come alive.

You want to give your lessons context and teach students how to apply what they learn to real life situations. For example, explaining the importance of investing for the future and the benefits of compound interest is a great start, but you could continue your lesson by running a stock market simulation that lets students practice investing with play money.

Games and apps can also make lessons memorable and engaging. Younger children might benefit from physical activities like dividing allowance into saving, spending and charity jars. Or, they can play fun online games that teach basic lessons like recognizing and counting the value of coins.

Whatever topic you’re teaching, plan every lesson with your students in mind. Reinforcing the lessons with relevant activities or even consequences and rewards can be effective.

Explore volunteer opportunities. If you’re unsure of how to get started, consider looking for a volunteer opportunity with an established nonprofit. Volunteering allows you to meet new people, give back to your community, make new connections and share knowledge that can have a lasting impact. Some organizations will train you and ask that you teach their own personal finance curricula. Others may set guidelines and let you work independently within them.

The Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) has a comprehensive guide to learning and teaching personal finance, as well as several helpful resources. Look for volunteering positions in your area with the CNCS government search engine (Serve.gov), which allows you to filter volunteering opportunities by keywords and location.

Bottom line: Whether you’re training as a professional teacher or working as a volunteer, teaching financial literacy is an admirable way to provide essential knowledge to members of your community. Using quality resources and tools – and bringing your own experience, passion and perspective – can help elevate students’ personal finance skills and make a positive impact in your community.

Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa’s financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney.

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