Posts Tagged "financial education"

Financial Videos’ Message: Please Deal

Reflecting a lofty ambition to educate Delaware residents about financial management, state government officials put together some terrific videos.

This is not high-level finance – the speakers tell stories about real people facing up to the dimensional challenges of money and retirement.  Viewers outside Delaware might find one of the 10 online Tedx talks valuable to them. Here are three:

Javier Torrijos, assistant director of construction, Delaware Department of Transportation:
His take on the immigrant experience in a nutshell: “The parents’ sacrifice equals the children’s future,” said Torrijos, who has two sons and whose own father left Columbia for a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, in 1964 so his children would have a shot at escaping poverty. Today’s immigrants are no different. But the pervasive ethos of family above all else, he argues, is responsible for some of the Latino immigrant community’s financial instability.

When required to make the impossible choice between going to college or straight to work to support family, family usually wins. “That mentality still exists” but needs to change if Latinos are to improve their lot, he said. …Learn More

401(k) Nudges and Course Corrections

Nudge book coverBehavioral economist Richard Thaler, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize for economics, regards his field’s greatest contribution as showing that people are more likely to save if the saving happens automatically.

“I’m all for empowerment and education, but the empirical evidence is that it doesn’t work,” he said in a 2015 Wall Street Journal interview. “That’s why I say make it easy.”

To make saving for retirement easier, employers have increasingly turned to automated 401(k)s. Automation has taken two basic forms.  The first, automatically enrolling each employee, is pervasive and has had notable success in increasing participation in retirement savings plans.  The second form, automatically increasing the amount employees save – a concept originated by Thaler and economist Shlomo Benartzi – is catching on. It’s hoped that the second will correct a problem created by the first.

Last year, 45 percent of Vanguard’s client base used auto-enrollment plans, according to its “How America Saves 2017” report.  Historically, employees were asked to enroll in their employer’s 401(k). Today, more employers are – as Thaler would say – “nudging” workers by automatic enrolling them, usually when they are hired.  Although they then have the freedom to opt out, inertia tends to keep them in the plans.

Participation in all types of 401(k)s has roughly increased in lock-step with the spread of auto-enrollment.  Last year, 79 percent of workers participated in Vanguard-administered plans, up from 68 percent a decade ago, when a new federal pension law made auto-enrollment more appealing to employers.

The irony, however, is that while auto-enrollment encourages more people to save, Vanguard partly blamed a 2016 drop in employee contributions on their popularity. The average employee contribution in all types of 401(k) plans declined from 6.9 percent in 2015 of pay to 6.2 last year, well below the 7.3 percent rate prior to the Great Recession, according to Vanguard. …
Learn More

Dice illustration

Parents, Start Student Loan Homework!

Here’s a reminder that parents should start their homework this summer to minimize college loan repayments over the long haul. A few basic decisions can add or subtract thousands of dollars.

A little help came last week, when the interest rates on all federal student loans were reduced. Despite the declines, the rates for the PLUS loans available to parents remain much higher than the loans available to their offspring – taking out a PLUS loan will nearly double the interest paid on $50,000 over 20 years, compared with an undergraduate Stafford loan.

This is an argument for having prospective students take out the loans, rather than the parents.  As for paying them back, financial advisers tend to agree that young adults with decades of work ahead of them can share in that responsibility at a time their parents are facing retirement.  This complex family decision depends on myriad factors, including how much income the graduate can expect to earn after college and how comfortable the parents are.

There are one-time, upfront fees on federal student loans, and they are also much higher for parent PLUS loans: 4.272 percent of the loan’s principal amount versus 1.068 percent for Stafford loans for undergraduates – these fees will go up for loans disbursed after Oct. 1.

The Institute for College Access & Success has put together an excellent cheat sheet explaining the federal loan options, who qualifies for various types of loans, and the costs of each.  To see this sheet, click here.

Below is the institute’s summary of the new loan rates, effective July 1: …Learn More

Financial Education Strategies Need Work

Brigitte Madrian

In a September paper distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Professor Brigitte Madrian and her co-authors reviewed the current state of U.S. financial education. In an interview, Madrian, a professor in Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, provided some fresh insights into education, regulation, and the role of the financial industry.

Q: Besides low financial literacy, why do people make bad financial decisions?

A: Procrastination. Inattention – one reason people accrue credit card late fees is that they forget to pay their bills on time. Advertising – people are swayed by the marketing of financial services and products. Not all products pushed by financial advisers or financial-services companies are appropriate for everyone, and sometimes people are swayed into purchasing products that may be right for someone else but aren’t right for them.

Q: Does financial education even work?

A: I believe the jury is out. We do not have a lot of compelling evidence on the impact of financial literacy programs. There have been lots of studies on programs, but many of them are of dubious scientific validity. Of the ones that are more credible in terms of methodology, some find very little impact on financial education and a handful find financially positive effects. …

Learn More

Kids to Washington: Keep It Real

Leave it to high school kids to inject some much-needed perspective into our economic and policy debates.

In Tuesday’s election, the presidential election may come down to a few swing states. But the next president, whoever he is, faces tough challenges – topped by the massive destruction of roads and transit systems wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, a tepid economy, and the “fiscal cliff” that a divided Congress enacted to automatically cut the $1 trillion budget deficit.

This video, by students at the East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg, Georgia, was among the winners of a contest sponsored by the Council for Economic Education, a national financial literacy organization that also has state chapters.

Click here for winning videos submitted by high schools in New Jersey and Maryland.Learn More

Five raised hands.

Hubris Hampers Education Efforts

Most people think they’re above average when it comes to financial knowledge. And it’s not easy to educate people who think they know more than they actually do.

But hubris – or something like it – is what financial educators are up against, indicates research by professors Annamaria Lusardi at the George Washington School of Business and Olivia Mitchell at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Their paper used data from 1,200 respondents to a survey they conducted for the Investor Education Foundation or FINRA, the self-regulatory agency for the securities industry. It may be the most comprehensive study on Americans’ financial literacy.

Seventy percent of the survey’s respondents believe they know more about basic financial concepts than most other people. But they scored poorly on the survey’s three rudimentary financial literacy questions. One-third to one-half of them answered the questions incorrectly or indicated they didn’t know the answers.

The results “paint a troubling picture of the current state of financial knowledge in the United States,” the authors said.

Further, this low level of knowledge, when combined with overconfidence about that knowledge, does not bode well for attempts to educate people about money and their personal finances.

Before I provide more detail about Lusardi and Mitchell’s findings, take the quiz yourself. Here are the questions1:
Learn More

Two Steps Back for Financial Education

Consider these grim outcomes for financial educators:

  • One study found that the seniors who had the least financial knowledge were most confident about their knowledge;
  • The most successful educational tools – stock market games – send the message it’s okay to gamble;
  • When Illinois required consumers to attend a workshop for certain types of mortgages, homebuyers avoided those mortgages;
  • Scores for national financial literacy tests administered to high schools by the JumpStart program declined between 1997 and 2008;
  • Soldiers exhibited worse budgeting behaviors after taking a financial course than before.

In the past decade, foundations, governments, and non-profits have poured millions into financial literacy efforts in grade schools through college and among low-income neighborhoods and specialized groups, such as homebuyers and the military.Learn More

12