NEW YORK -- Thom Dellwo, financial education coordinator at Cooperative Federal Credit Union in Syracuse, N.Y., demonstrated for Financial Literacy Day attendees how he teaches financial literacy to a young audience.
Dellwo teaches a life skills program to children with disabilities at a public high school in the Syracuse area. The classes are made up students going for their individual education plan diplomas. Dellwo said the students realize that these diplomas are not going to be recognized as a regular diploma would, so his goal is to provide a program that is interesting and engaging enough to keep the kids coming back to school.
Dellwo uses what he calls a "fountain of wealth" to engage the students. The fountain of wealth is a homemade prop that demonstrates four key concepts of finances: income, expenses, assets and liabilities.
In the classroom, Dellwo brings up volunteers to interact with the fountain of wealth. He calls on audience members to shout out typical expenses such as rent, utilities, car payments, cell phone payment and the most popular answer among students, clothes.
Dellwo pours green liquid into a container to represent income. The volunteer then places straws into the income container to represent each expense listed as Dellwo drains the income container. It stops draining when the volunteer finishes all the expense items listed.
If there is any green liquid left at the end, Dellwo drains it into the savings container, but most of the time Dellwo said the income runs out before the volunteer finishes with the expenses.
"Most people and most youth think to pay expenses before putting money into savings, but the demonstration shows that in life you have to save before your expenses by creating a budget," Dellwo said.
Throughout his presentation Dellwo provided the audience with tips for teaching young adults. Dellwo advised not staying in one place, and when using words they may not understand, don't just explain them but provide examples.
"Never show fear in front of students and never give up," Dellwo said.
He also suggested loaning students money to develop a trusting relationship with them. Dellwo said that he would lend students $5 to open a savings account, and, while sometimes he wouldn't get the money back, other times he would, and in all cases the students saw that he trusted them.
Dellwo said to also walk through the neighborhoods where students live to see it and get a sense of their life. When it comes to presentation, Dellwo said to be professional but "don't dress like you have a million dollars."
"Be a real person and don't assume they know something, explain it to them and explain it in ways they can participate."