Both students and teachers know that it’s often hard to make money and finances interesting. And financial education classes suffer from low turnout or enrollment. Even when participants show up, they often come away thinking that the material was boring or at least not fun.
Of course it’s hard to make money fun and engaging. People find it hard to talk about money; it’s a true challenge to find fun ways to talk about finances – and to find ways that are also non-threatening. Conversation starter ice breakers are a key component of successful financial ed classes.
One of the reasons that financial education (or financial literacy, financial capability) classes are not fun is that they tend to jump right to hard skills like “How to do a budget” or “How to get out of debt.” But filling out budgeting worksheets and spreadsheets is not fun and makes for a dysfunctional icebreaker or introduction. It’s an immediate turnoff for students. Doing a budget feels like a test. And it can be very frustrating for a variety of reasons:
That’s not to say that a financial education curriculum should ignore budgets. Instead, consider how diving right into the meat of financial education misses the behavioral or psychological aspect of how to start working with people with money and providing the financial help they need.
Certainly there are other icebreakers and games that can be used in financial education, but Money Habitudes is used for a variety of reasons with great success with a number of different audiences (from asset building to financial planning to HUD housing counseling). Why?
As an ice-breaker, Money Habitudes usually takes 15 minutes or so. (Financial educators say that the extra few minutes at the beginning of a workshop pay dividends later, even if less skills-based material is ultimately covered.) Ideally, each participant will have his or her own deck of cards to do the activity that feels like a card game. (Those materials can be reused.) By simply using the statements cards as conversation starter questions, it can be a quick icebreaker activity, although less powerful than doing the full sorting assessment process. (Each statement, Habitude interpretation card, and special discussion card can be viable conversation topics.) After developing a better understanding of their money personality or financial personality type, people enjoy later group activities and exercises more. In addition, later lessons (such as budgeting) tend to have more personal relevance. People also relax more when starting a difficult topic like money management with something fun and interesting that feels like a game.
Generally used as an individual activity, Money Habitudes can also be used as a group exercise and be used in team exercises. Generally, this is done by financial advisors or financial educators in a team building or sensitivity training context as opposed to with end-user clients or students.
Of course, Money Habitudes cards can be much more than an icebreaker and can be used in counseling and in classes that typically last for 30-90 minutes. It can also be paired or integrated with other curricula and programs such as those on investing, relationship communication skills, etc. (This might be programs like the FDIC’s Money Smart, Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University, or PREP.)