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Real learning: microfinance

June 5, 2011
International Money Pile in Cash and Coins
Image by epSos.de via Flickr

Recently my husband did something very cool.

He gave our 13 year old daughter $100 to invest in kiva.org.

He gave her an introduction to the concept of micro-finance (which she understood very easily) and then showed her some of what he’d invested in and pointed out aspects that may impact your selection critiera (although all in asking not telling).  Then, he told her that she could invest in whatever she wanted, but she had to have a rationale that she could “defend” to him, and they set up review meetings where she could tell him how her investments were doing.

I thought it was such a good approach.  I am sometimes frustrated by the lack of practicality that kids learn at school.  One thing that I think really should be embedded in curriculum is personal financial literacy (I’ve even written about it before).  I also think that kids need to learn these lessons early in life so that they have solid understanding and good habits before they really start earning or spending their own money.  My idea is that we should teach kids based on the save/spend/share model.

  • Save: earning or income, paying yourself first, power of compound interest, basic investing, etc
  • Spend: smart shopping, dealing with impulse purchasing, budgeting, debt, etc
  • Share: philanthropy, selecting a meaningful “cause”, blending time/creativity/money as valuable items

I have many ideas of how this would work.  I also thought about June in our public school system.  Kids complete the curriculum early in the month so the report cards can be completed and the majority of the month is kind of lost (in my mind, teachers might vehemently disagree).  Why not teach some practical things that are not “curriculum” in those times?  I recall when I was 14 we had a class called “Consumer Education” and we played the penny stock market, had to research buying a car, how to write a cheque and these things are still with me.  Maybe I’m just turning into an old fuddy duddy.

It does reinforce the concepts on an adult level though.  We don’t learn in our organizations because we are told, we learn because there is something in it for us.  For our 13 year old, it’s the feedback on how her money and projects are doing (and maybe the good feeling about who she is helping). Make sure you think about why someone would want to learn as part of your instructional design.

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