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A High-Tech Approach to Financial Literacy

A free resource may help you and your clients.

Over the course of their lives, your clients and their family members are guaranteed to have many uncomfortable conversations. Which is the most uncomfortable? And how can you help them do something about it?

The answer for the most uncomfortable topic is money. A Wells Fargo survey found that 44%
of Americans see personal finance as the most challenging topic to discuss with others. We’ll get to what your clients can do to facilitate this conversation with their children in a moment, but first, let’s get into why this topic is so essential to almost everyone. Money is a leading cause of stress in relationships, and it’s commonly cited as the primary reason couples divorce.

Starting Young Helps

There are many things children need to know about money. They need to understand how to earn it. They need to know how to spend it wisely. And they should also be aware that it’s essential to save at least some of it.

When children don’t learn these concepts, they may end up with crippling debt that they could have avoided if they’d known better. They may have credit records that cut them off from opportunities. They may be unaware of basic financial strategies that would do wonders for improving their lives and their well-being.

Simplifying Money Concepts 

Here’s a free resource that you and your clients may not yet know about: Newsela has a revolutionary ultra-high-tech approach to helping children at all levels understand basic economic concepts.

Actually, Newsela is also good at making all kinds of information available to individuals at various levels of reading ability. But for the moment, let’s focus on what Newsela can do for making financial literacy available to young people.

According to Scott Sokoloff, Newsela’s chief data scientist, the company is making novel use of natural language process technology. This is the same artificial intelligence (AI) concept that enables a company like Google to translate an article in English into 103 different languages.

Newsela is using this technology to translate English sentences from, for example, a 12th grade level to a third grade level. “Think of English as being composed of several subspecialties,” he explains. 

“Depending on how complicated the sentence structure is, or how sophisticated the vocabulary is, a passage can be changed to either 12th grade English or third grade English.”

As Sokoloff goes on to explain, Newsela takes all of its content and rewrites it into five gradations of readability aimed at different reading levels. To see how this simplification works in practice, consider an example of a recent Newsela translation from the realm of science.  

Most adults would have no trouble with this sentence: “When a U.K.-built rover takes off for Mars in 2020, it will bear the name of Rosalind Franklin, a pioneering British scientist who made vital contributions to our understanding of the structure of DNA.”

However, that sentence would make almost no sense to a typical third grader. Using natural language algorithms and human aids, Newsela translated it for young people so it reads: 

“A new spaceship is going to Mars. It will have the name of a famous British scientist, Rosalind Franklin."

“Franklin made big discoveries about DNA."

“DNA tells our bodies how to grow and work. It is like a set of instructions for every living thing. DNA is passed from parent to child.”

Although natural language technology is very good at simplifying language so it’s appropriate for different reading levels, human beings do check the results. Taking advantage of these processes and tools, Newsela has so far translated more than 8,000 articles and made them available to schools and individuals. 

They’ve accomplished this with the help of only a small group of editorial staff working on the project. If Newsela were using only human translators who didn’t have the support of AI, it would take a vastly greater number of translators, and they’d inevitably produce only a fraction of the content.

The idea of translating information to the reading level of the consumer is being used in many of our schools. According to Sokoloff, “We have 17 million students using the platform and 1.5 million teachers with usage spread across about 90% of schools in the USA.”

If your clients would like to explore Newsela’s financial information or any of the rest of their age-appropriate content, they’ll find that it’s available free at: 

Mitzi Perdue is a professional public speaker and author of the book How to Make Your Family Business Last. Email her at [email protected] or visit her website,

TAGS: Technology
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