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Educator Highlights for Financial Literacy Month


April is financial literacy month, and Lead. Empower. Grow. has partnered with the Real Secrets of Money program to highlight the importance of financial educators. We have so many great clips of past guests talking about financial literacy and the great work they do as financial educators, so we gathered some of their best pieces of wisdom and advice over the years and put them all in this insightful episode.


Jeff Lehman  0:02  

Thank you for listening to Lead. Empower. Grow., a podcast featuring entrepreneurs who lead productive teams, empower their communities and grow successful businesses of their own.

Except today's a special episode: April is financial literacy month, and First Financial Security takes that very seriously. Our Real Secrets of Money program all month is putting out blog posts on Tools and Resources of Financial Education, and I wanted to join in for the podcast. Because we have so many great clips of our agents talking about financial literacy and the great work they do, so why not gather it together in one place?

Financial education courses are rarely taught in American schools, yet finance and personal money management affects nearly everybody — regardless of race, class or gender, regardless of what job you have, of how much or little money you make. Knowing how to manage your money will make your life easier and make your family's life easier. It's important for everyone out there to know how to budget; what credit is; how to take out a loan; how interest and APR might affect those loans — and that's just the foundation. You can build off that for investing and entrepreneurship, just like everyone we interview for the podcast. But you have to have your foundation right first, which is why Real Secrets of Money and First Financial Security, and Lead. Empower. Grow. want to emphasize the importance of Financial Literacy Month.

And if you aren't convinced yet, here's a little bit from the agents we featured on the show, starting with Vicki Diep, Julie Lor, Yvonne Nguyen, Thuan Bui, and ending with a long segment from the FFS Gives Back Visionary of the Year for 2023, Youa Khang, who knows a lot about financial psychology and teaches financial literacy in schools as part of the Saving Angels program.

So, happy Financial Literacy Month. Here we go.

Vicki Diep  1:50  

As kids, we weren't taught financial literacy. Why not have financial literacy class?

Jeff Lehman  1:56  

I know, yeah.

Vicki Diep  1:57  

Some sort of exposure. Talk about credit. Talk about how to manage your credit card. Talk about budgeting. Just, having good money management skills. It just felt like we weren't taught that. My family — my parents — didn't teach me that. I had to learn everything on my own.

Jeff Lehman  2:14  

Yeah. It's almost maddening that we don't have that yet in schools, because we've had that conversation for a long time, and it still isn't there. 

But it is true — you hear, "When are we ever going to use this?" You hear that from a student about chemistry, and yet financial literacy? You could answer that with, "Every single day."

Vicki Diep  2:26  

Definitely. I mean, at least expose us at younger years, like in elementary school, like sixth grade, and then again, another one middle school, and then the last two years of high school. That would be so life-changing, right?

Jeff Lehman  2:34  

It'd be nice.

Vicki Diep  2:41  

Because kids, when they hit 18... Oh, man. They're ready. They're driving — credit cards! They get offered credit cards.

Jeff Lehman  2:47  

"This is what money is?"

Vicki Diep  2:48  

Right? APR, all that stuff at 20-something percent. There's a reason for that. If they have some sort of financial literacy knowledge background, they're like, "Okay, I know, I understand."

Jeff Lehman  3:00  

Be very careful.

Vicki Diep  3:01  

Use it in the right way, because you can build your credit and stuff. But a lot of kids, they don't know. So I just felt like, the minute they hit 18–19, that's it — their credit score is terrible because they don't understand. And then, next thing, you know, it's like, "Oh, I don't have money. Okay, now, I don't even want to talk about life insurance." 

Come on — you know, retirement? I mean, more than 40% of Americans do not have a penny for retirement. That's terrible. Think about it. That is scary. And a lot of times, when I talk to clients, I ask them: "When do you want to retire? Do you ever want to retire?" 

"Oh, yeah, absolutely." And the typical age is usually 65.

"Great, great. Do you have any plans to make that dream come true?"

"No, I don't, I don't have anything." That client is like age 50.

Unfortunately, you're not going to be able to live that dream and you don't have a plan in place. A lot of times, I try to have real talk with my clients. Some might take it well, and some may not, because they cannot even have that conversation with their spouse or themselves. They don't want to talk about finances. But that's something that's so important, that we all should, at a very young age.

Jeff Lehman  4:12  

Yeah, it can only get better if you address it. 

Vicki Diep  4:15  

Right. It shouldn't be something so terrifying.

Jeff Lehman  4:18  

I know, the unknown disease is the one that kills you.

Vicki Diep  4:21  

That's like the most important thing.

Jeff Lehman  4:22  

I know. Yeah.

Vicki Diep  4:23  

You could be a doctor, you could be anything, you could be making a whole lot of money, but if you don't know how to manage your finances, you're going to be broke all the time.

Julie Lor  4:30  

And education really plays a big role in that.

Jeff Lehman  4:33  


Julie Lor  4:34  

You know, a lot of these are not taught in college.

Jeff Lehman  4:37  

Oh, yeah.

Julie Lor  4:37  

I remember, I've only had one course. That was an elective course that I took on money management. And it was just, you know, pretty simple and pretty general information, gbut a lot of this information was not taught in school. But I'm glad that throughout my seven or eight years here at First Financial Security, I was able to advance all of that knowledge through the experience and the knowledge that I was able to gather from here.

Jeff Lehman  5:03  

Yeah, amazing. Yeah, yeah, that's why it's so crazy, because we don't have it in high school — which we should have financial literacy things in high school — but then we don't even have it in college, which is the higher education. And it's why we — it's why to First Financial Security and every one of our agents — it is all about education for them. It's forefronted, it's... because we're like traveling teachers. [Laughs]. Of finance.

Yvonne Nguyen  5:29  

Recently, I had a chance to talk to a lot of the younger generations — 21, 20 years old, or the oldest is 25 years old. Because when I was that young, I was never thinking about saving or building for my retirement. I just knew that I had to go to work and make house payments and food on the table — never thinking of saving that early.

Jeff Lehman  5:53  

I know some agents trying to work to get that younger generation. It's so hard — and I was the same way — to think of the future when you're just that young, before your knees start hurting. You feel invincible, and yet you're also just trying to get food on the table. You're also just being like, "Okay, how am I an adult? How do I buy groceries?"

Yvonne Nguyen  6:11  

Because our cultures never talk about financial worth with teaching. So the kids don't know how difficult it is, that the parents have to work to have food on the table, to save up for their college, to do this, do that, for the family.

Thuan Bui  6:26  

I had this one client: She saw me on TikTok. She reached out to me. She's in her 40s. She and her husband have three kids. Three beautiful kids. They had nothing saved up at the time. They were relying on one income.

Jeff Lehman  6:43  

Common story, yeah.

Thuan Bui  6:44  

So you know the kind of risk that comes with

Jeff Lehman  6:47  

Gosh, yeah.

Thuan Bui  6:47  

If something happens to the primary wage earner, within a month's time, the family is going to face major, major financial catastrophe. Some people say 6 months, some people say 8 months, but no way. 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

Jeff Lehman  7:04  

Yeah, yeah.

Thuan Bui  7:04  

If that paycheck cuts off, how can you say that it's going to take six months for the family to feel financial impact? It's going to be immediately, within two weeks.

Jeff Lehman  7:14  

Yeah, that's a good point. Yeah, I feel like the 6 months is one of those "averages" things, but really, it is like 1 month or less. You're going to feel it right away, most people.

Thuan Bui  7:21  

Yeah, because you're including the wealthy people who do have the excess funds.

Jeff Lehman  7:26  


Thuan Bui  7:27  

And that kind of outweighs everybody else. But 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling every single day.

Jeff Lehman  7:33  

Yeah, and like you said, the financial impact — that weight is more than just months. That's years and generations that that can ring out. 

Thuan Bui  7:39  

Imagine: Right now, 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Again, I know I've said that three times now on this podcast, but —

Jeff Lehman  7:46  

Because it's scary.

Thuan Bui  7:47  

People need to understand that. What does that mean? You have to have the money to survive. 

Jeff Lehman  7:53  

It's a good point. And you said it three times, but that's because it is important to remember.

Youa Khang  7:59  

So when I was in school, I was studying psychology. And there was a curriculum — in the curriculums that we were building about financial psychology — and it really struck a chord, it just resonated so much with me, because it was already something that I loved. And now, I was able to marry my business with my passion. Yeah.

And so, I love financial education, but I would say that my heart is in financial psychology. That's what I teach the most. And I always start my students all off with that.

And I feel like that is, you know... there are a lot of budgeting and savings and financial education courses and organizations out there, but the missing component is the financial psychology piece. Yeah, you can give them all of the tools and resources and articles and research, but if their mind isn't prepared to receive that, and if they don't know where their limiting beliefs start, it's hard to start saving and to want to budget and to want to continue. So, with me, I really found that financial psychology was the piece that we all have to start off with before we throw the practical techniques at our students. And so I just kind of started from there.

Jeff Lehman  9:14  

Yeah, it's like the basis of everything. Psychology is... you could — it is the basis of all behavior.

Youa Khang  9:20  

Right. [Laughs].

Jeff Lehman  9:20  

But with finances, it's not talked about. You're right. And it is so tied to that in a way that's like... it's almost, not fully equal to addiction, but like addict behavior.

Youa Khang  9:31  


Jeff Lehman  9:32  

Like you get a dopamine spike when you buy something, you get a little thrill, and sometimes we use it. There's retail therapy, and we use it to overcome sadness or, you know, avoid problems. It's, of course, tied to the brain, and if you can recognize that and separate it, yeah, then...

Youa Khang  9:50  

You really hit the nail on the head. I think that's something that we talk about a lot in my financial psychology courses, is that we're human. We are... if anything, we are more emotional spenders than anything, right?

Jeff Lehman  9:50  

Oh yeah.

Youa Khang  9:52  

And if we don't have a good relationship with money — it doesn't matter how much or how little it is — we don't have that peace of mind that comes with having wealth or having money.

Jeff Lehman  10:13  


Youa Khang  10:14  

And financial psychology really helps students build a strong emotional capacity and psychological capacity to handle money before we go into the budgeting and the savings.

Jeff Lehman  10:28  

Yeah, yeah.

Youa Khang  10:29  

One of the reasons why I really resonated with the financial education initiative that FFS has is because... So, I grew up poor too. My parents are refugees from Thailand, and I was born in Thailand, and then we came to the United States. So we grew up poor. And, given the little resources that we had, to me, I had a really good childhood. But as you're growing up, you start feeling in the social pressures, and you start realizing that, "Oh, there are social classes, and there are people who have more than others." So, I've had my experiences from that.

And when I started building the curriculums for financial psychology and understanding the effects of that, and what money can do for you, I started healing a lot of my own financial traumas from childhood, and I started recognizing it.

Jeff Lehman  11:18  

Yeah, it's nice that you're actually in schools doing it. Because that's often the statistic I cite: a pain point in America is that financial literacy and education doesn't start soon enough — with myself included.

Yeah, I had a similar kind of thing. I remember being in the middle of the country, on a farm and thinking that the richest neighbor or small-town person, like, "Oh, that's wealth." And then I came to Atlanta, and I was like, "Oh, my God!" I had no idea how rich people got. Like, that was nothing. Did we have anything? [Laughs]. Even though, yeah, we were happy.

Do you have a part of your curriculum that is often most surprising to people? You mentioned the feedback, but is there a favorite fact you like to mention that people gasp at? Or one that opened your eyes, or anything? Or what's your favorite part of the psychology curriculum?

Youa Khang  12:12  

Yeah, so one of the topics that I bring up a lot — and I feel like I love this one, but also my students really like it too — is about how we identify their relationship with money: we use money scripting. This is something that was coined by psychologists. And there are four major money scripts that we use. 

I'll use the first example: The first example is... so money scripts are just things that we hear — whether we're saying it subconsciously, or we're saying it verbally, out loud — about money and our experiences with money.

Jeff Lehman  12:47  


Youa Khang  12:48  

The first money script is money avoidance. And we know that we have money avoidance when we start using — and I've used this to, and I've heard this many times growing up — when we use scripts like money is evil, right? That's a common one. Or we say things like wealthy people are greedy, right? So these are scripts that we identify, and usually we hear this a lot. And when we know what the student — the scripts that they're using, the scripts that they're holding onto — it gives us a starting point for, "Hey, where did you get this belief from? Is it your own? Is it from your own personal experiences? Or is it passed down from your parents or from your peers?"

So, I really love talking about the money scripts, because when I bring it up, people are like, "Oh, my goodness, I'm not even aware that I have been saying that," It just sounds so, so normal in our heads. But, when we're able to label it and we're able to say, "Well, if you're believing this, then it usually means this." People are just really astonished by the thoughts that they have in their minds about money.

Jeff Lehman  13:58  

Oh, my God. Yeah, yeah, assumptions that we already have and biases. I like that that's the first one — you taught even me that. Yeah, I like it's the first one because your brain makes you dismiss it immediately, which can... it protects yourself, subconsciously, I guess — 

Youa Khang  14:18  

It does.

Jeff Lehman  14:18  

— but it ends up hurting because part of managing money is looking it directly in the eye and knowing your numbers and budgeting.

Youa Khang  14:26  


Jeff Lehman  14:27  

And if you think it's evil or engaging with it is bad, or can contaminate you, then you're never gonna be able to do that, and your bank account could go all over the place.

Youa Khang  14:36  

Oh, yeah, definitely. Yeah, I find that a lot of people who grew up in poverty or who've had experiences of poverty, they tend to use that money script a lot. Because it's almost like a self-soothing method. Like, "You know what, I don't have enough money. So I'm going to keep telling myself that it's evil to justify why I shouldn't have more." Right? But the truth is that you can be looking for opportunity and, at the same time, denying what opportunity can give you as well. So it can go on to hurt you in the long run.

Jeff Lehman  15:07  

Yeah, that's true. I love that phrasing of it. Yeah. Is there anywhere that you have found — your financial classes are such a great resource, but is there any trusted source other than your college curriculum? Or do you find yourself saying, "Oh, I always go to this website because it has resources"? Because I've blogged about financial literacy resources — and there's a lot — but you know... And none of them are terrible — barely any — but I wondered if you were like, "Oh, I always go to this website."

Youa Khang  15:42  

Yeah, so I am a member of the Financial Therapists Association. And oh, my goodness, I go to that website a lot. Because they have journals, they have scientific journals, and researches done on poverty, done on financial psychology. There are real clinicians and therapists who work with clients and families, in terms of their finances, and they write this really good scientific research. And so I find that a lot of the information that I put on my curriculum, it does come from the journals that I have access to.

Jeff Lehman  16:18  

Awesome. Yeah.

Youa Khang  16:19  

And of course, books. I mean, one of my favorite books is called Happy Money by Ken Honda. It's a very different perspective of how he approaches the relationship to money. But I do — I always look for new books that I can, read that I can just kind of take little snippets from and add it to my curriculum.

Jeff Lehman  16:19  


Youa Khang  16:19  

And then, of course, we have the basis of our curriculum, which is provided through the National Financial Therapy Council. So that gives us a foundation. But I would say every year my curriculum is changing, because as I'm finding new research and new information, I'm updating it to make sure that I'm giving the students the best that I can find.

Jeff Lehman  17:06  


Youa Khang  17:06  

But my biggest fear now is, "Have I taught my children enough so that when I pass on this wealth to them, that they can sustain it, and that they can repeat what I did," right? That's my biggest fear now: I have to give them the knowledge.

It's just like a vicious cycle. Like if you can't stop yourself, and you can't identify where the problem is. Yeah, you can just live your whole life just in the avoidance of money.

Jeff Lehman  17:33  

Yeah, you can't just ignore the power. You have to recognize the power that money has. And once you see the power, you can use it responsibly. You can use for yourself — like everything, like any power. Responsibility.

Youa had so many other great things to say in that episode, so really, go check out that in our back catalogue. Also check out Vicki, Julie, Yvonne, and Thuan, and I'd like to thank them again for being on the podcast.

To hear their episodes, and all other episodes of Lead. Empower. Grow., visit our feed wherever you get your podcasts or at, where we've also posted blogs filled with Tools and Resources for Financial Education. And all this Financial Literacy Month content is thanks to Real Secrets of Money, our financial literacy program.

For new episodes of Lead. Empower. Grow., remember to follow us wherever you get your podcasts, and we look forward to bringing you more stories that inspire you to lead, empower and grow.

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