5 Tips for Expanding Access to Financial Literacy

Melissa Maichle .

April is not just a month of blooming flowers and warming weather; it’s also Financial Literacy Month—a time dedicated to promoting awareness and education about financial matters. However, as we delve into discussions about financial aid, scholarships, managing money, investing, and building wealth, it’s crucial to recognize the unique challenges faced by individuals from minority backgrounds in achieving financial wellness. In previous articles, we discussed best practices for institutions of higher education to create their financial literacy programs. Today, we share critical information on ways to implement financial literacy initiatives that are more inclusive, engaging, and supportive of diverse communities of students and staff members.

One of the most important things to do before developing your financial literacy program is to recognize that financial literacy is not one-size-fits-all. Cultural factors play a significant role in shaping attitudes and behaviors towards money. As such, educators and practitioners should tailor their educational materials and workshops to resonate with the cultural backgrounds of minority groups by:

  • Incorporating real-life examples and success stories from individuals that reflect the identities of the students within the communities you are trying to serve.
  • Highlighting successful individuals from minority backgrounds who have achieved financial success through smart money management and investing, since that level of representation is oftentimes missing from these narratives.
  • Remembering that representation in financial education materials is also essential for creating a sense of belonging and relevance concerning these topics, which should allow the information to resonate more deeply and effectively with your audiences.

Note that language barriers can be a significant obstacle to financial literacy. As such, as much as possible, do your best to offer resources in multiple languages to ensure that individuals whose first language may not be English can access vital information about managing their finances. Provide translated materials, podcasts, and online resources to cater to diverse linguistic needs, which might even empower students to have important conversations regarding their finances with family members and other individuals within their communities – and these individuals might be able to share their own wisdom and experience.

Similarly, try to foster a sense of community by partnering with specific student affinity groups that serve minority populations. These groups and centers on campus tend to have a strong rapport with students and might be able to help encourage students to attend workshops and activities. Additionally, by meeting students where they are, you get the unique opportunity of engaging with them in an environment and space where they might feel more comfortable and familiar. Also, don’t forget to encourage community leaders to champion financial literacy and promote its importance within their own networks and spaces on campus.

Don’t be afraid to tackle difficult topics. Oftentimes, these topics are the concerns that tend to be most present in the mind of students from diverse backgrounds. Find ways to acknowledge the systemic barriers that disproportionately impact minority communities in their access to financial resources and opportunities. Offer workshops and resources that address topics such as overcoming discrimination in banking, navigating student loan debt, and building wealth despite historical inequalities. Provide students with the language they need to self-advocate and advance policy changes that promote financial equity and inclusion.

Another critical lesson involves enacting different modalities of learning with your financial literacy and financial wellness initiatives. Engage individuals through interactive and hands-on learning experiences. Implement games, challenges, and simulations that teach financial literacy concepts in an engaging and accessible manner. Encourage participation through incentives such as prizes, scholarships, or discounts in order to maintain an active and engaged audience. Recognize that not every student learns the same way, so offering diversity in how you present the information will make the content of your programs significantly more accessible to students.

In conclusion, promoting financial literacy and wellness initiatives is incredibly important for all students. Having a unique approach that recognizes the specific needs of students from diverse backgrounds, however, requires a thoughtful and inclusive approach that addresses cultural, linguistic and systemic barriers. By understanding the unique challenges faced by these communities and implementing tailored initiatives, we can empower individuals to take control of their finances, build wealth and achieve their financial goals in a way that is more inclusive and impactful.

Need help thinking through your outreach implementation strategy? Feel free to reach out to our team at info@heag.us for more information about how we can assist you with important initiatives such as these.