04.09.13

Khan Academy Founder Sal Khan Takes on Financial Education for Adults

Having tackled kids’ education, the Khan Academy founder teams up with Bank of America on his next big project: teaching adults about money.

With 6 million students logging on to its site every month seeking help with everything from physics to art history, Khan Academy is one of the largest educational resources in the world. But now, the nonprofit is attempting to reach a new audience: adults who want to improve their understanding of their finances. At BetterMoneyHabits.com, Khan Academy, in partnership with Bank of America, is offering video lessons on the essentials of money management, with topics ranging from creating a budget to understanding compound interest. 

The site could be a boon for consumers. Just like the free education Khan Academy offers students, the content available on the new site is free, straightforward and without advertisement (though the company logos do appear on the landing page). Of course, it’s also a smart move for both companies. The site will be promoted in all Bank of America locations—giving Khan Academy a nice marketing opportunity while garnering favor with Bank of America customers.

Sal Khan, Khan Academy founder, and Katy Knox, head of consumer banking at Bank of America, stopped by the Daily Beast offices to discuss the project.

What prompted this partnership?

Khan: About a year ago, some folks at Bank of America reached out and said, “Hey, look, you guys are already doing a lot around finance, but there’s a lot more that can be done.” I was skeptical at first. We’re a not for profit; they are a big bank. They wanted to educate people—not just market to people—and they were offering to support us with expertise. A big win is helping raising awareness about what we’re doing. For us, it seemed like a pretty good deal.

So what’s the goal of the project?

Khan: I’d like it if … literally every question you have, you would want to access some combination of our content. Especially if you were to say, “I’m about to buy a house, let me understand this in-depth.” You could go to a bank, or you might have a financial advisor, but you know sometimes you wish your cousin with an MBA was next to you. That’s the kind of the role this site plays. Going in, you’re armed with knowledge so you can ask the right questions, or they’re already answered. We’re always looking for more topics.

Knox: We’ve started with a couple very practical topics and we’ll continue to evolve it around the feedback we get. So this is really a consumer-driven site where consumers will tell us what they want to learn about. We’re trying to give practical tips that people can use in everyday life to continue to improve their financial management.

We’ve also rolled this out in all of our 5,400-plus branches. Our folks will be talking about better money habits. They’ll be talking about Khan Academy.

Khan: That’s ultra-exciting for us. It’s great exposure. We have 6 million users a month, but there’s 40 million students in the country, and then if you talk about adult learners, which is who we’re talking about for this one, our awareness is nowhere near where it should be even though we’re giving you free knowledge. Our mission is a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Bank of America’s reach will make the “anyone, anywhere” a lot more likely.

There’s a risk in this partnership: Khan Academy—a visible nonprofit—aligning with a very big, corporate bank.

Khan: There’s a huge risk. Our main asset is our credibility. We don’t want to become commercial… We’ve been approached by other folks and even though it would have helped support us, we wouldn’t do it because of that fear. A lot of companies talk about education; it always ends up becoming spin and marketing. What was refreshing to me…[Bank of America] was genuine. I think they’re smart. It is actually good for their business to educate people on a deep level.