One Degree of Difference

Lisa Simpson

This month we yarn with ICAN Learn teacher, Lisa Simpson, about the importance of Financial Literacy Education and the difference it makes to people’s lives.

Hi Lisa, thanks for yarnin’ with us today!

Can you tell us how you got into financial counselling?

I worked at a bank in 2010, but I was looking for a change.  I saw a job advertised for a financial counsellor, but I had no idea what it was!  I put my application in and got the job which started a new chapter for me.  It was a new experience being part of the community sector and surrounded by so many people who were happy to share knowledge and information.  People would say to me, ‘Hey, if you don’t know something, give us a call. We can help you,’ it was a different world.

How long have you been a teacher at ICAN Learn?

I started teaching Financial Literacy Education with ICAN Learn in 2020, right when COVID hit, so all classes were online.  Teaching via zoom gave me the capacity to be at home and still teach students from all around Australia, which has been fabulous.

Have you always been involved in teaching financial literacy?

My passion for financial literacy education sparked during my time Financial Counselling role in Bendigo when I was involved in a money education program.  It was incredible seeing the difference some simple knowledge could make in people’s lives.  After moving on from the bank, I developed and implemented my own financial literacy program for high schools and later delivered community education for Anglicare under the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, which I loved.  I then decided to challenge myself to complete the Cert IV in Training and Assessment so I could also teach accredited courses.  I still love teaching unaccredited and community education courses just as much.

You’re also a practising Financial Counsellor. Do you specialise in any area?

I don’t specialise, but I’m very passionate about superannuation and superannuation insurances because so few people ever pay attention to them. I’ve seen what making the proper referral to a superannuation insurance specialist can do for people. It can be life-changing.

Can you give us an example?

I had a client with a serious illness who came to me for a second opinion as he only had $1000 in his super fund and had been advised to withdraw the money and close his super account.  By the time I saw him, he was not only seriously ill but struggling to hold onto his mortgage and at risk of losing the family home.  He had also been on a Disability Support Pension for several years due to a work injury.  He wasn’t aware of the insurances attached to his super, so I referred him to a superannuation specialist who successfully claimed a payout of around $500,000, which changed that family’s world.

So it’s vital that organisations train their staff in financial literacy if they’re dealing with vulnerable clients?

Definitely.  As a financial counsellor, I can’t give financial advice, but I know what options I can present to someone or where I can refer them.  When you work with vulnerable people, you will end up talking about money issues, so workers need to ensure they’re giving people the correct information.  It’s just as important not to inadvertently give people false hope either, like telling them they can get their rent or mortgage paid, as that can be just as devastating if that turns out to be wrong.  Learning the referral pathways is essential for financial capability workers if they are going to help people get the best outcome possible.

I’ve seen firsthand the impact of someone given the wrong advice, like another client I had who was unfortunately advised to roll his super into a new super account without insurance.  He died three weeks later, and his wife got nothing.  Three weeks before, he had $400,000 in insurances in his super fund. 

How does financial literacy change people’s lives?

You only need to make one degree of difference to put someone on a different financial path.  Teaching a person even one skill, like paying yourself first rather than spending everything you earn, can change everything.  It makes an enormous difference to someone when they realise they can give themselves permission to put $5 or $10 a week into savings, rather spending every cent.  Learning to do a budget, paying bills on time, and seeing any money left over as theirs to spend empowers people.  It gives them freedom and breaks the cycle of intergenerational poverty. We can do that for people through Financial Literacy Education.

What sort of feedback have you had from past students?

I’ve had feedback from people who have told me the difference that Financial Literacy Education makes to them when they return to their workplace.  Not only can they support their clients better, but it also changes their own financial position.  People also have better conversations with their clients, like explaining the difference between a want and a need, and the importance of goal setting.  It makes a big difference in helping someone to accept their situation and brings them along on the journey.

The sector needs more financial literacy workers. Why is it a great career choice?

We work in community services to help people and make a difference.  People come in burdened, carrying that weight of debt – some with no hope, or suicidal. You are the person that gets to have a conversation that can make all the difference, relieve their anxiety, and give them hope for tomorrow. That’s what we do as financial counsellors and financial capability workers.  We walk that journey with people until they are on their feet and can walk it themselves. It’s the most rewarding sector I’ve ever worked in.

You can find out about all ICAN Learn courses by joining our monthly live online zoom course information session, or register here for our next session at 11am, 7 July 2022