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4 Volunteer Opportunities to Promote Financial Literacy

Dec. 21, 2011
Personal Finance
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The holidays are a great time to think about giving back. Many nonprofits are struggling to stay afloat in these tough economic times, and extra help from volunteers is always appreciated. Whether you’re serving food in a soup kitchen or walking dogs at an animal shelter, there are tons of ways to get involved. Since NerdWallet is all about smart financial choices, we wanted to highlight some of the ways you can volunteer to promote financial literacy.

Filing taxes and counting coins may not sound like the most exciting ways to spend your time, but you’d be surprised at how fulfilling these tasks can be when you’re helping someone else! If you know the basics of financial planning, or are willing to learn, you’re already a valuable resource for at-risk populations who just haven’t had access to a great financial education. Just a few hours of volunteering a month can have a profound impact on the quality of life for children and adults in your community. Here are four excellent opportunities to consider:

1. Tutoring

Tutoring is one of the best ways to help someone succeed professionally and academically. You’ll not only help people improve their grades and self-confidence, but also set a solid foundation for financial literacy. As a math tutor, you can help people understand the technical skills associated with successful money management. Sure, addition and subtraction are essential, but to really appreciate the value of a dollar, people need a solid understanding of advanced math like algebra and statistics. As an English tutor, your role is just as important. Reading, writing and critical thinking skills help people understand complex agreements, express themselves, and think about situations from multiple angles, all of which are necessary for managing money. Thousands of organizations nationwide have opportunities for tutoring children and adults. If you’re not sure where to start, check with your local library or school district for opportunities.

2. Tax Preparation

The IRS sponsors free tax preparation services for the elderly, the disabled, military personnel and low-to-moderate income people. You can help by becoming a volunteer income tax assistant with a participating organization in your community. Although it helps to be good with numbers, you don’t need an accounting or economics background to participate. After a few, free training sessions, you’ll be able to tackle basic federal and state forms like a pro. You’ll even learn how to promote special tax credits that help vulnerable populations save money. For example, did you know that many low-to-moderate income workers qualify for an Earned Income Tax Credit? In 2011, this was worth up to $5,751 in saved earnings. That’s a lot of money when you’re struggling to make ends meet, and you could be the person to provide the good news! Check out the IRS Partner Website for more information on how to get involved and receive free training.

3. Financial Management

For most of us, paying our bills is an unpleasant but utterly mundane part of our lives. However, some seniors and disabled people really struggle with managing their finances, and not everyone is lucky enough to have help from their families. You can help by volunteering to assist them through an advocacy organization. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Money Management Program trains volunteers to act as bill payers or representative payees for people who need it. After being accepted into the program and completing a short training session, you’ll be matched with someone in need. Many of their clients only need help for a few hours a month. If none of your local charities support the Money Management Program, consider reaching out to a local senior center, or an advocacy center for disabled adults.

4. Credit Counseling

Volunteer credit counselors help people understand debt, credit and money management. Depending on the program, you may be paired with one person through an agency or lead small classes. For example, United Way of Silicon Valley trains volunteer credit coaches to meet with one clients six times a year to discuss credit and online financial management tools. Money Management International (MMI), which runs a network of non-profit consumer credit counseling agencies, will train you to lead financial education workshops. Class topics include managing income, keeping debt under control, buying your first home and understanding credit scores. Both MMI and United Way will provide you with materials, support and training, but they prefer you have a background in a finance-related field. If you don’t, just ask about other ways to help with their financial literacy programs, or ask about opportunities with a different social advocacy organization.