Making Financial Literacy FUN With Money Matters

Today we are thrilled to hear from Nancy Kenok, Senior Program Manager of College Access & Success Service at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Milwaukee, with her four top tips for running Money Matters with teens.

Financial literacy isn’t often taught in our schools, and it truly is an essential life skill. I, myself, come from a low-income family with immigrant parents who did not speak English. Financial skills were also not taught in my home. I learned many components of financial literacy through trial and error in my young adult years. Money Matters: Make it Count is a program that I wish I had been taught growing up.

Money Matters gives our teens the tools to become financially fit individuals who are potentially working their first job and earning a paycheck, or will be one day soon. It also gives them the resources and knowledge to make financially sound decisions as they transition into adulthood. I have been facilitating Money Matters since I started at my Club and I have seen the benefits firsthand. Most of our teens have participated in the program since their freshman year of high school.

Financial literacy leads to financial stability, which means less stress, lower poverty rates, and much more freedom. Because many of our Club teens are first-generation college-bound students and come from lower-income families, Money Matters helps them understand how to pay for college and apply for scholarships and financial aid. This helps lower the amount of their student loan debt to little or none, which sets them up for more freedom later in life.

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I love facilitating Money Matters because it has so many benefits! I think there’s a misconception that financial literacy is a boring topic for teens, and that keeps many Clubs from teaching it. I’ve discovered a few tricks for intentionally facilitating Money Matters that brings the program to life and get teens energized. Here are some of my top tips to run Money Matters at your Club!

Help teens discover their vision and goals and how financial literacy can help them achieve those goals.

One of the first lessons in Money Matters is for teens to create a vision board. Our teens love this! We have done different variations, including a “Paint your Vision” session, collage vision boards with magazine clippings, and virtual vision boards using Google Slides or Canva. I often revisit their visions and goals because dreams may change as teens grow. Doing this helps our teens feel connected to the Money Matters content. 

Adapt the lessons to fit your teens’ interests!

As noted above, we adapted our vision board lessons to engage different types of learners. Getting to paint their vision was an incredibly engaging and hands-on lesson for our teens. Another resource that I have used is BGCA’s digital learning platform It has videos that explain different Money Matters concepts in a visually appealing and concise way. In one video, rapper J.Cole shares the common temptation to spend more on things that you “want” versus what you “need.”  My students enjoyed hearing from an artist they admire and took his words to heart. J.Cole’s opinions>mine. 🙂

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Make it interactive.

After a long year of the pandemic, our teens are excited to be back in person and to be moving around as much as they can. So, for example, when we debated “Good Debt versus Bad Debt,” we split the room into two sides. One side was good debt and the other side was bad debt. When we called out the type of debt, they walked to the side that they believed was the correct answer. Then, we called on a student from each side to explain why. We also turn many parts of our lessons into games. When teaching the difference between fixed costs versus flexible costs, I split teens into multiple groups and put up several costs. They had to select if they were fixed or flexible. It was a relay race, so the fastest and most accurate team won.


Who doesn’t like prizes? As noted above, we often play games to make activities more interactive. Our Club director, Andre Douglas, secured several gift cards and prizes for our youth, which makes them excited to play. In addition to prizes, we always remind our teens about the potential of applying for and winning the Charles Schwab Foundation Scholarship through BGCA for participating in Money Matters. Our Club teens who have won the scholarship share testimonials with their peers about how Money Matters and the scholarship helped them succeed.

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The recently updated Money Matters curriculum features 25 fun and engaging facilitator-led sessions, and helps teens develop financial literacy skills that can lead them to workplace readiness, lifelong financial stability and overall success. Boys & Girls Club staff can download the Facilitators Guide and Teen Personal Finance Guide on Staff can also access training opportunities on and through Spillett Leadership University. Be sure to check out the new Money Matters activities on to extend the learning. 

What are your top tips for running Money Matters with teens? How do you adapt programs to fit the interests of your members? We want to know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email to share.

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