Financial Literacy Engagement Ideas:

In-School Banking Program:

With financial literacy programs becoming part of the required curriculum in schools all over the country, one program increasing in popularity is the in-school bank. While there are a myriad of ways to execute this, some bank/school partnerships are doing it better than others.

The general idea is a bank partners with the school to bring a branch within the school walls. There have been various models including:

  • High School state chartered banks
  • Middle School/Elementary student run savings program
  • Pre-K thru 12 comprehensive programs

This level of financial literacy engagement requires a massive investment of human capital, time, and organization to pull it off successfully. Furthermore, the investment(s) made are long term as most schools won’t disrupt the facilities for a one year trial.

The University of Nebraska Omaha has a site dedicated to helping banks understand the intricacies of an in-school banking program:

Having partnered with UNO, the bank that is accomplishing what some said is impossible is Treynor State Bank. They funded a non-profit whose sole goal is to provide financial literacy to their communities through in-school banking, training, and other support. The TS Institute is responsible for 5 in-school banking programs and the first Pre-K thru 12th grade state chartered bank.


1:1 Financial Checkup:

There are two generalities that can be said about most clients of banks today:

  1. They don’t have enough in assets to be taken on by a financial advisor.
  2. Many have never had a thorough conversation about their finances.

One way banks are adding the financial literacy component to their services is by offering 1:1 financial checkups with their customers. In essence, providing guidance around the day-to-day handling of money, thereby improving their overall literacy.

The financial checkup is a 30-45 minute appointment done by a certified financial counselor on staff where the customer and CFC go through 3 crucial pieces of the customer’s financial picture:

  1. Credit Report
    1. Looking for abnormalities & errors
    2. Finding credit repair opportunities
    3. Coaching on DTI levels
  2. 2-3 Months of Bank Statements
    1. Looking for NSF charges & other fees
    2. Identifying cash flow issues
    3. Suggesting products/services that would benefit
  3. Building A Simple Budget
    1. Going through fixed/variable expenses
    2. Tracking planned vs actual expenses
    3. Identifying ideal percentages of income in spending categories

This method has been used by numerous financial institutions in various ways. Some will hold a one night a month opportunity to sit with a certified financial counselor, charging a nominal fee to hold the spot, then refunding when the customer attends. Other FI’s have designated one person as the financial counselor who is responsible for holding these appointments throughout the week as an added value to the customer.

While not only an opportunity to increase someone’s financial literacy, it becomes a sales opportunity if the products or services you offer can put the customer in a better place financially. By refinancing a vehicle, lowering monthly payments, and helping steer additional cash flow towards paying down debt, it’s possible to help someone qualify for a home or business loan that otherwise wouldn’t.


Brand this ‘process’ as your own as a way of differentiating your bank from others that may be doing something similar.


School Partnerships:

Many banks are looking to partner with local schools to satisfy their CRA requirements, however, done with the wrong intention could backfire tremendously. The key to a successful school/bank partnership is understanding that the bank can provide resources that are needed by the school.

A conversation must be had with the principal, superintendent, and curriculum director to find out what the school most needs. Understand fundamentally what the demographics of the school are, what their college placement rate is, and what the income levels of the families are. Once you are armed with this information, then begin to think through what kind of partnership your bank can provide. Some examples are:

  • In-class assistance. Some schools are looking for a resource they can bring into the school to talk about products and services to the students. As part of a lesson on economics or banking, a teller or lending officer could help the teacher in describing how loans are made or what the difference is between a savings and a money market account.
  • Internships. Schools today are looking to increase the opportunities that are available to their students. Many have implemented school-to-work programs where students spend half of the day their senior year working in the public to get a feel for different careers. Perhaps offering up internship positions that roll over each year or semester to a new student would not only add to their financial literacy, but provide a fresh group of recruits to your HR department.
  • Sponsorships. Fundraisers are a given in high schools today as most of them can’t meet their spending needs on the state budget alone. Consider sponsoring certain events within the school that have a financial angle to them.
  • Curriculum Support. There are a variety of decent curriculum products available today, some that are free to schools, and others that require an investment to provide them to the school. A bank that is willing to step up and cover the costs of curriculum can be viewed very favorably to the school as a trusted partner.

The overall goal of school partnerships is to support the financial literacy efforts of the school. It’s one thing to come in and provide needed funds, and another to truly partner with the school to provide them the things they most need to fulfill their standards and requirements.


Master Your Money Classes

A simple plan to implement within your branch is setting a series of classes or workshops on mastering your money. Depending on the amount of marketing you do, expect to have a few attendees the first couple of classes. As word gets out, attendance will continue to rise.

The list of classes you could offer could range from:

  • Money in your 20’s
  • First time home buyer class
  • Preparing your budget for retirement
  • Budgeting 101
  • Money Smart Kids
  • Parenting & Money
  • Car buying tips & tricks

It’s important to add in your marketing materials for these classes that you won’t be selling anything. Some customers will think it’s nothing more than a sales pitch unless your marketing clearly states that this is an informational session only and being offered to increase the financial wherewithal of the bank’s customers.

Sessions should be open to the public and could be publicized through newsletters, on the website, via email, in statement stuffers, at the teller window, and through the drive-up lane. If it’s a formal offering, consider making posters that are hung throughout your branches.

One key to the success of class or workshop financial literacy programs is having someone within the branch who can dynamically present the material. If the material is presented well, with humor, some interaction, stories, and concrete takeaways, customers will share their experiences with others as well as sign up for more classes.

Some resources examples include: – via Capital One – via Citizens Bank – via NerdWallet – via U.S. Bank – via Actuarial Foundation via Discover Bank


Money Fairs:

One way to increase your financial literacy initiatives is through partnering with the local schools to host a Money Fair. Similar to a science fair, the money fair idea is about challenging students to pick some aspect of money to create a ‘project’ around. The projects could range from a simple poster board with facts and figures, to a power point presentation, to building dynamic software about how to buy a car or calculating the cost of college.

The fair is then held on a specific weekend, with all participating schools sending their representatives to present to “celebrity” judges (ideally someone from a radio station, tv station or locally known entrepreneur).

A great example comes from a credit union in the midwest — they’ve held their Project Money, a trademarked program, for the past several years with a great response from participants and participating schools. (

Ideally, a money fair program would fit in nicely with the curriculum of the district. Visiting with the superintendent and the curriculum director is encouraged to see how offering this type of program would fit into some of the standards required by the district. Banks offering to sponsor a money fair generally host the official event at a local community college or community building, have competing projects from students all over the district, and offer an award at the end for the best project.

This provides a great chance for students to flex their financial muscles and study one topic that may be interesting to them. On the bank’s side, it is a fantastic PR opportunity, makes for great social media fodder, and cements your place in the community as a bank that’s doing something to increase financial literacy.



Current student loan indebtedness averages $30,000 per person coming out of college today. Even families that at one point would have been in an income category to pay for school have drastically reduced means to cover the expanding cost of college.

Some banks are stepping up to help by offering community scholarships to students who show need or promise. The key to making this part of your CRA strategic plan is including some components of financial literacy in the contest, and offering assistance to the students who participate in creating a budget, saving, etc.

Here are some ideas of how to partner with a school district or area to provide scholarships:

    1. Partner with the English department. Students have to write essays throughout their high school career, but rarely are there financial rewards waiting for them at the end. Consider partnering with the English department and make writing an essay an assignment. The essay could be about the history of money, Americans propensity to save, how debt can be both good and bad, etc.
    2. Partner with the Math/Business department. Most high schools have curriculum standards around personal finance (albeit a very minor part of most curriculum). Consider partnering with the Math or Business teachers and have them go through college cost scenarios, how you might save money for college, and then encourage the scholarship application. The sheer volume of curriculum choices for these teachers has become staggering and having a local bent to the project could be a win for all.
    3. Work with school counselors. The number of scholarships that go unclaimed each year is astronomical. There are two main reasons: apathy and ignorance. Students just don’t have the drive to complete an essay and most have no idea where to look. Typically, it’s the guidance counselors that are thought to have the information on where to get free money for school, however their workload is such that making sure they meet with every single student is far fetched. Giving them a local resource for scholarships will ensure that the word is being spread to all of the students.


  • Whether you work directly with the school or not is up to you. Setting up a scholarship program is fairly simple and marketing to your customer base could happen on the website, social media, in statement stuffers, posters in the branches, etc.
  • Include some level of financial literacy in everything you do scholarship-wise. Have the student do some research in order to write an essay.



Books & Resources:

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Click here to Download the Winning the Money Game Curriculum