We know that financial education is a key component of financial wellness, and we’re always thinking about what we can do to improve the financial education of the greater population. We’ve talked recently about the role that advisors play in educating others and conducted a survey that helped shine a light on what some advisors are doing to reach out to young people. Likewise, one of our 2021 Advisor Summit keynote speakers brings his life experience and voice to this cause every day.

Tyrone Ross Jr. is a first-generation high school graduate. He was a college student before he understood how checking accounts work. At 26 years old, he walked by the New York Stock Exchange without having any knowledge of what happened behind its doors.

Today, Tyrone is the CEO and Co-Founder of Onramp Invest. Tyrone is also launching Learn to Money with Kornhaber Brown, a production company that creates programming for PBS and MTV. The 10-part video curriculum teaches the basics of financial education with a fresh voice. Watch their pilot episode here.

Based on how he personally grew up, Tyrone has become a tireless advocate for financial education for all – a topic he passionately explores in his 2021 Advisor Summit presentation (Watch Here).

Below is an excerpt from a conversation we had with Tyrone about this work. It’s hard not be inspired by him!

When it comes to financial education, a lot of focus is on the gift of sharing knowledge. You speak about the other side of that, the giver, and what those in the financial services industry should consider when it comes to their role as mentors. Can you elaborate?

I believe that financial education is a gift. But in order for that gift to be used effectively, we need to stop and think about the best way to be givers.

As a giver of financial information, we need to understand our audience or our market. We need to read the room and empathize with who we are talking to. I like to talk about that in terms of education, exposure, and empowerment. That means we need to educate ourselves about the people we want to give to. Then we need to take that one step further and actually expose ourselves to the world that they live in. Look at it through their eyes. Drive through their neighborhood.

Once we’ve done those two things, biases start to break down, making it possible for us to actually connect. That’s when we can empower others.

But we can’t necessarily stand over here and speak our language, while they stand over there and speak their language, and expect to make a useful connection. We can’t assume that we know each other or understand each other.

To that point – for an advisor who wants to expand their financial education efforts, it seems like language, specifically eliminating financial jargon, would be a great place to start.

Actually, I would argue against that assumption.

First, look at the market you wish to reach. Then take the time to identify where you have privilege. I know, I know … privilege is a very loaded word right now. But remember that privilege isn’t a bad thing unless you don’t acknowledge that you have it. I have privilege. You have privilege. Just recognize it.

As an advisor, sit down and think about where you have knowledge privilege (and also other privileges) that your target market doesn’t have. Know your customer – why should that stop when it comes to working with the community?

Once you’ve put that work in, you’ll be able to see places where you can give back to the industry, rather than just take. Where can you lift the curtain and help people better understand how the financial world works. And that is where you start.

I want to clarify that not every advisor is going to target helping kids in rough neighborhoods. You can still be who you are – the world needs all types of professionals, and you should play to your strengths. Be who you are but help others. Maybe that means helping kids. Maybe that means helping women.

Financial education is such a broad topic, some advisors can find it overwhelming to get started. What are a few key thoughts you’d share with them?

I hope advisors understand that there is a role for all of them, no matter their time, resources, or interest. Small things add up. Even adding a simple “new financial terms” page to your website so all of your clients can speak the same language you do can be powerful.

What else? I’d say:

  • Poor is not a color, it’s a condition. Speak to someone’s condition; make them feel comfortable. The same way we speak to wealthy people about private schools and vacation hotspots, we should have points of connection. It goes back to knowing your market.
  • Part of being empathetic is understanding what knowledge will really be useful to your audience. Those who are low income will often find much more value from advice related to social security, payday loans, and WIC instead of stocks, bonds, and economic theory. I often give examples of how few of us really understand the shocking number of underbanked families in the United States. There is no point to discussing a mutual fund with someone who’s never had a checking account. Meet them where they are and go from there.
  • The real goal of financial education for young people is to give equal access to the same resources, independent of background. Today, some people are getting front-row seats to basic financial management skills and others are watching the same show through the window. Then we wonder why some people thrive and others don’t. Basic, fundamental financial information can make all the difference.

View Tyrone’s full keynote presentation here to learn more about his story and his vision for the future of financial education. Then, we encourage you to check out our full schedule of free online keynotes, breakout sessions, and technology demos – with a focus on strategies to help advisors grow their businesses.

The information, analysis and opinions expressed herein are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views of Envestnet. These views reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of writing and are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing contained in this piece is intended to constitute legal, tax, accounting, securities, or investment advice, nor an opinion regarding the appropriateness of any investment, nor a solicitation of any type.

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