I first discovered my passion for financial education 25 years ago when I was working as a customer service representative at a bank eventually acquired by TD Bank.
As a fourth-generation U.S. citizen, I was the first person in my extended family to earn a four-year college degree. And, like so many Americans, my family learned about banking and finance on an as-needed basis—in real time.
So when customers came to me with questions, ranging from what kind of identification they needed to open up their first checking accounts to how to apply for loans, I understood how important it was to help them develop personal finance skills. Many of them lacked basic knowledge of how a credit score worked or how to protect their financial identities. Back then, the internet was in its infancy, and I couldn't direct them to a self-help portal for information. So I took the time to provide advice and instruct them every step of the way.
And you know what I learned? That personal guidance actually made a huge difference in their lives. I saw people achieve their dreams by learning how to manage their money and secure access to financial products. And I watched with pride and admiration as they sent their kids off to college, purchased homes, financed small businesses and comfortably retired.
Blending technology with a human touch
Today, as head of TD Bank’s financial education initiatives in the U.S., I know that enabling digital access to financial information and consumer-friendly banking products is essential for helping people improve their financial well-being. Getting personal advice from bankers will always be a part of the equation, but digital tools can supplement that advice in a meaningful way.
That’s why TD Bank partners with financial education technology leader EverFi on our TD Bank Learning Center—an online platform that gives teens (ages 13+) and adults instant access to cutting-edge digital learning experiences. The Learning Center teaches people how to manage their money and sign up for bank products and services, often for the first time.
Our online and mobile portals feature video tutorials, tips, tools and resources. We even invite nonprofits and educators to bring TD volunteer educators into their schools or community centers. And it's that last part that truly sets us apart.
You see, at TD, we've never forgotten the value of a real, human touch.
For over 25 years, TD Bank employees have been volunteering in our communities to provide financial education in partnership with local schools, organizations and workplaces. Today, nearly 2,000 employees volunteer thousands of hours as trained financial education instructors. Our volunteers live and work in the communities where they teach, reflecting the brilliant diversity of the people they serve.
And our online TD Bank Learning Center extends the impact of our grassroots community work by allowing people to continue their financial education online. We know this is particularly important to younger generations. In fact, 75% of Millennials and nearly 90% of Gen Zers surveyed by TD said they would like to improve their financial IQ.
Financial education in action
One recent community event stands out in my mind for exemplifying our human approach to financial education.
As part of a partnership with the Special Olympics in New Jersey, TD piloted an adaptive financial education event for Special Olympics athletes, their parents and caregivers. The participating athletes were teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who wanted to lead independent lives. In fact, most had jobs and/or lived on their own with support.
More than 100 people attended the event at TD University, including 30 volunteer financial education instructors (there was even a waiting list!). Our instructors provided lessons on budgeting and invited participants to interact with our experiential learning stations. They taught them how to use our TD Bank Learning Center and simulated common bank transactions, like how to make a deposit or open a savings account. Parents and caregivers learned how to track income and expenses and access government-assistance programs.
Because of their participation in this amazing event, many of the athletes are now more confident in their financial skills and more comfortable working with TD employees to get their financial questions answered. And some of them are saving up for sports gear to train for the next Special Olympics event.
As I look toward the future, I am proud that our growing team of employee volunteers will continue to provide expert instruction on key financial concepts like credit scores, homeownership, mortgages, taxes and financing higher education.
And, together, we will help people across our communities achieve lasting financial health.
Andrea Johnson is the VP, Head of US Financial Education at TD Bank