Identifying topics for financial literacy training


Financial literacy is a process through which an individual (or a family) gains a basic understanding of banking, savings, and the importance of good credit. It increases the likelihood that low- or moderate-income individuals or families will be able to buy a home or start a small business — and encourages economic stability in a given community. When developing a financial literacy training, the topics covered will necessarily reflect the unique needs of the audience as determined by a needs assessment. This practice lists many topics commonly included in money management or financial literacy curricula.


The most important factor in a financial literacy training program's effectiveness is its design; the curriculum must be tailored to the goals of the people it serves. When developing a financial literacy curriculum, it can be useful to begin with a full range of possible topics.


Following is a list of topics commonly included in money management or financial literacy curricula. Find out from members of the target audience through needs assessments which topics are likely to be most useful:

Basic banking and budgeting

  • Using financial institutions
  • Opening accounts
  • Reading statements from financial institutions
  • Managing a checking account
  • Using electronic banking services
  • Recognizing the range of saving options
  • Calculating interest and understanding compound interest
  • Understanding the importance of budgeting to achieve personal and financial goals

Credit and debt

  • Establishing and using credit
  • Repairing poor credit
  • Ordering and reading a credit report
  • Securing loans
  • Identifying expenses
  • Identifying and assessing assets and debts
  • Avoiding money drainers (check cashing operations, rent-to-own stores, predatory lending)
  • Understanding the proposed and actual costs of owning or leasing a car
  • Developing strategies to cut expenses (plug spending leaks) and increase income
  • Determining ways to reduce debts and/or save money

Income planning, risk management, and taxes

  • Financial planning for different stages on the family life cycle or for life events — getting married or living together, separation or divorce, having children, personal or family illness or disability, buying a home, retirement, sending children to college, losing a job, death of a partner or family member
  • Reading a paycheck — what is the difference between gross pay and net pay
  • Understanding and identifying various types of insurance, the protections they provide, and the risks associated with remaining uninsured
  • Understanding how taxes affect paychecks and the difference between net and gross income
  • Decision-making and problem solving
  • Identifying values
  • Managing risk
  • Understanding tax obligations
  • Filing for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Learning how to avoid tax penalties, underpayment, or overpayment

Money flow and asset creation

  • Understanding economic and financial terminology (e.g., understanding the evening news)
  • Understanding basic investment principles
  • Recognizing the interconnectedness of the economy
  • Accessing resources — community resources, financial assistance resources, credit counseling resources, financial planning resources, online resources
  • Applying economic concepts to personal financial management
  • Communicating about financial matters with family or household members
  • Standing up for rights as a consumer
  • Recognizing accessible investment options

Individual Development Account

  • Understanding the IDA
  • Setting up, maintaining, and using the IDA
  • Using the IDA to build assets
  • Setting goals and priorities (e.g., home ownership, post-secondary education)
  • Identifying barriers or obstacles to achieving goals
  • Developing a spending plan to achieve goals
  • Monitoring plans (tracking progress)
  • Keeping records

Homeownership preparation

  • Knowing what to look for when buying a home
  • Dealing with mortgage lenders
  • Identifying affordable homeownership programs available to low-income workers

Social enterprise

  • Starting your own business: understanding the basics
  • Understanding the main components of a business plan
  • Creating a budget for a start-up business
  • Finding training programs about how to start a small-business 

For more topic ideas, see the National Financial Educators Council's financial literacy standards.


Giuffrida, I. (2000). Elements of effective financial literacy training: Key components of effective and engaging financial literacy training. Columbia, MD: The Enterprise Foundation. Retrieved from

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