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It’s Always More than Just the Numbers

POSTED: April 26, 2014 | BY: Annamarie Cerreta | TAGS: , , , , , , , , ,

April 26By Alvin Hall, Author; Financial Educator; President of Cooperhall; Contributor on NPR’s “Tell Me More with Michel Martin.”

Being comfortable with numbers—understanding arithmetic and simple mathematics—is core to financial literacy. Learning the language of finance—learning the right terms and phrases—is not enough.  Your understanding needs to incorporate the underlying concepts, which are largely numerical in nature.

Much of basic financial literacy is about understanding simple numerical concepts both practically and abstractly. Often, when people are struggling with the arithmetic and mathematics associated with money and finance, a breakthrough occurs when they are shown how it applies practically to their everyday lives, to their aspirations. Finding the access point, which is often emotional rather than rational, is a key not only to getting the person interested but also to keeping them motivated to learn more.

I have found that using stories help to animate the point helps both children and adults in a way that focusing solely on the numbers does not. Whether from classic literature, from the recent celebrity news, from the lives of my friends and acquaintances, or from my own life, short tales can highlight key points and concepts; placing them in human settings makes them making them both less intimidating and more memorable. I find that it makes the person think “I can do that,” “I can learn that,” and “maybe I can use it in my own life.”

Sometimes the stories become reminders of the underlying financial activity or principle. It pops up in the person’s mind when they are in situations that are similar, thereby giving them a reference point to begin formulating a possible solution.

Not everyone finds working with numbers easy or logical. Part of financial literacy is helping people—children, teens and adult—find ways of relating to the logic of the number. Using a narrative construct that’s simple and personal to teach the basic arithmetic and mathematics of personal finance can be effective tool in making the person feel the information is connected to their lives and their ambitions.

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