September 28, 2013


cash register
(an idea arising from the Canadian Personal Finance Conference organized by Preet Banerjee and Krystal Yee)

Picture this. It’s a cold, dark and stormy night. Do you go to a personal finance event or stay home? Now picture a bright, warm sunny day. Do you go to a personal finance event or go out?

Personal finance is important but not much of a draw, regardless of the weather. We often know what to do … but don’t.

November is Financial Literacy Month. Money 50/50 is a proposal for a perfect live interactive event that can be replicated across the country.

The Attraction

What would get you to leave your cozy home?

How about “celebrity” speakers who aren’t selling financial services. Some personal finance bloggers and journalists are ideal. They are transparent and credible. They publish continually, answer questions and genuinely care. You might want to meet them.

There’s also an advantage for the organizer: these speakers already have audiences, which helps fill seats with less effort.

The Topics

While you may attend because of the speakers, the content also matters. There isn’t much new to say about personal finance but we all need reminding.

Would you like useful tips you can understand and apply? The agenda could several items from the following:
  • how to select an advisor (if you need one)
  • budgeting traps/tips/secrets
  • investing traps/tips/secrets
  • insurance traps/tips/secrets
  • Wills and fine print
  • how your brain works … against you
  • overlooked money advice
What else would you like to know?

The Format

Each speaker gets 30 minutes split 50/50:
  • 15 minutes to speak (like a TED Talk)
  • 15 minutes for your questions (unlike a TED Talk)
The discussion is the most valuable part. Unless there’s real interaction, the speakers could save their time and yours by posting videos on YouTube.

The short segments allow more speakers. If you’re not interested in one, that’s fine because they’ll be off stage soon. You may find you benefit most from who you didn’t want to see. You get time to network and ask questions before, during and after the program.

The Schedule

Money 50/50 could take place after work (say downtown at 5:30 PM) or after dinner (say at 7:00 PM).

Each speaker deserves a prime spot since they’re volunteering their time to speak for free. Since we remember who’s first and last, this structure eliminates the middle: Speaker 1, Speaker 2, Break, Speaker 3, Speaker 4.

The Followup

Change takes time. Financial bloggers and journalists are here to help. You can read their classic content anytime and get their latest thinking by subscribing to their blogs. You can follow them on Twitter. You can ask questions on Facebook and Google Plus (if they’re there).

The Support

You’re aren’t alone in your quest for financial literacy. There’s support from nonprofit or government groups such as:
These might be willing to endorse Money 50/50 or at least promote via social media.

The Sponsors

If there are suitable paying sponsors, Money 50/50 can have freebies like refreshments, pens, paper and prizes. It’s important that the sponsors have no influence over the selection of speakers or topics.

The Venue

The first step is finding a venue and locking in the date well in advance. For Money 50/50, that means finding a free place. If the room is free, the  event can be free (or cheaper).

When the venue has a price tag, there’s the added stress of filling seats. Charging admission may deter you from attending (though paying often increases the likelihood you’ll show up).

The ideal room has tables, a whiteboard, a screen and a projector. A lecture hall with theatre-style elevated seating could be ideal. Depending on the size, microphones might be useful.

The Next Steps

How would you make Money 50/50 better? What would cause you to attend and bring a friend? Please leave your comments below.

I’m willing to organize a Money 50/50 event in Toronto if I can find a free venue. Any suggestions?


Podcast 239

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Financial literacy events can take place all year long and I’m willing to help.


Potato said...

Sounds interesting. I don't have any ideas on free rooms though. Perhaps if you find a UofT prof as one of the speakers you can get one. Charging a modest fee of a few bucks might be the way to go to pay for a room.

Promod Sharma said...

Thanks Potato. Involving someone with access to a room (free or inexpensive) is a great idea.

Simon said...

Hi Promod! I think this would be a great idea, I'd attend for sure. Perhaps one of the municipal buildings (Richmond Hill / Markham / Vaughan) would offer a nice room for free or very cheap?

Love your podcasts, thanks for all the great information!

Promod Sharma said...

Thanks Simon! Municipal buildings look ideal and might be free ... for nonprofit or charitable community groups. At least that's what happens in Toronto ( This initiative wouldn't qualify unless supported by a suitable group.

There's a conundrum. Potential room providers want to know who's speaking. Potential speakers want to know about the audience size and composition. How do you get started if you're not already established?