Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
What should you do to prepare to teach a Financial Peace University or FPU class? How do you keep students engaged throughout Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class?
This article is intended to help those who will be hosting Financial Peace University and teaching FPU courses. This advice is the result of several years as a volunteer teacher and coordinator of Dave Ramsey's FPU class.
My FPU Coordinator Experience
As fans of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, my husband and I volunteered to teach the Financial Peace University courses at our church. This was an unpaid, volunteer task. My husband was the official FPU coordinator for the full 13-week course at our church in 2009, 2010, and 2012. We taught the condensed 9-week FPU class in 2016.
We also hosted the Dave Ramsey simulcast 2012, and we gave the one-day young adult financial education course "Generation Change". We taught these Dave Ramsey courses on a volunteer basis and were never paid for our time or effort.
Tips for Planning FPU Classes
- Arrange childcare, preferably free childcare for attendees. In our case, our church offered free childcare to families that paid for the course. The church saw this as part of its mission to serve the community and help those in need. As a result, many financially strapped, young families that wanted to attend but could not due to problems finding or paying for a babysitter could attend.
- Plan a start time that will allow your students to arrive on time despite local traffic. Start times between 6 PM and 8 PM are best. If your group includes young families, schedule the class so that it will not interfere with putting young children to bed.
- Know the material before you teach it. Watch the videos yourself before you show them to students.
- If you are going to tell your own "getting out of debt" story to students, have a short, elevator pitch version. They are there to learn how to follow your example, not hear a life's story.
Cutting Up the Credit Cards: How We Did It
Tips for Managing the FPU Classes
- Start the class with small skits on saving money, video clips with financial jokes and other activities that set the tone while engaging students.
- Stay engaged when you start the video. Do not abandon your class while the video is playing.
- When the class breaks up into separate groups to answer or review workbook questions, circulate and interrelate. Ask if others have questions, but do not overwhelm the discussion with your own experiences with money.
- Limit discussions after the video so that the class ends at a reasonable time.
- Ask about accomplishments of any kind and every size. Did someone pay off a small debt? Did someone manage to negotiate a car lease to drop extra fees and charges, lowering the overall bill? Has someone been able to find a second job? Ask about these achievements, and then celebrate them.
- Congratulate everyone for accomplishments throughout the course. This maintains the positive tone.
- Offer topic-related candy. We gave away Zero candy bars for the lesson on zero-based budgeting. Everyone enjoyed the Lifesavers candy during the class on insurance. We handed out gummy sharks on the lesson on dealing with "sharks" and debt collectors.
- Have a small party at the end of the course. Dave Ramsey says that the average family manages to pay off several thousand dollars over the duration of the course.
- Early in the class, let everyone hand in an anonymous card saying how much debt they have. At the end of the class, let everyone hand in another anonymous card with how much debt they have now. Total up each set of cards. Subtract the final debt level from the first debt level for the amount of debt paid off during the course. This helps everyone feel a sense of accomplishment and show that progress can be made, even if individual attendees didn’t make much progress. Do not push for 12 step program style admissions of debt levels or financial progress.
- Manage the discussion time at the end of the class. If the talks are too long, the event may last so late that parents in the group stop attending because their kids stayed up too late.
- If you are going to suggest someone use a tool like EveryDollar, build a budget and track spending in it so you're at least more familiar with it than those who have never logged into it.
Learn from Our Mistakes as FPU Coordinators
- Do not try to sell snacks or concessions during an FPU class. Few people there can afford these items. Offer free water, tea or juice instead.
- Avoid referencing Dave Ramsey books that were not provided in the FPU kit. Many students will be pressed simply to read his book and run through the activities each week such as creating an initial budget. They can read other Dave Ramsey books or learn about competing financial literacy programs like Crown Financial at a later time.
- Do not pressure people to state how much debt they have. Do not make comparisons between people. For someone in dire straights, paying off a $150 past-due bill is a major accomplishment and should not be compared to someone who paid off $1,500 in debt with savings they already had.
- If there is a conflict between spouses in the FPU course about money, refer them to a marriage counselor. Do not referee a marital conflict during a financial course.
- When you are teaching the Generation Change course, set it for a date that does not conflict with major sports games or right before state exams.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do Financial Peace University coordinators make money doing it?
Answer: We were volunteers, so we were not paid to teach the class. There are people certified by Dave Ramey's program who are paid for each class they provide. They may teach the class at companies as part of their wellness program, be paid by nonprofits to mentor as they get out of debt, or simply teach the class for a modest fee.
Question: I was under the impression it is illegal to work for a "for profit" business and not get paid?
Answer: We were volunteer coordinators teaching the class to our church. This reduced the cost of materials and lessons for the church. There are paid FPU coordinators, as well.
© 2012 Tamara Wilhite
Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on August 18, 2012:
This article was inspired by someone who said she appreciated our class, with skits and candy and jokes, that was more engaging and thus something she could finish - in contrast to the prior class she'd tried where the person showed the Dave Ramsey videos, lectured through the workbook and sent everyone home.
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 18, 2012:
It is nice to see the provider side of financial planning. I am very thankful to be debt free but for the mortgage. Thanks so much.