October 22, 2020
Cognitive Decline Meets COVID-19 Scams
The federal government warns that older Americans are being targeted by a battery of financial scams, including telemarketers offering to do contact tracing – for a fee – or to reserve a slot for a future vaccine. Others are soliciting donations to charities purportedly helping people in need during the economic slowdown.
COVID-19 makes this a perilous time for people struggling with cognitive decline.
Few can escape a deterioration in their cognitive capacity as they age. It’s just a matter of degree and speed. But the faster it happens, the more damage it can do, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation concluded in a new study.
The study was based on surveys of more than 1,000 older residents in Chicago retirement communities and subsidized housing – average age, 80. The same people were periodically asked questions with varying degrees of difficulty about their general financial knowledge and investments and were asked to compare and calculate percentages.
The older people who either initially had less understanding of financial concepts or experienced a faster decline in their knowledge made poorer financial decisions in exercises that simulated real-world decisions.
This included a vulnerability to scams, which was assessed by asking the older people to agree or disagree with statements like this: “If a telemarketer calls me, I usually listen to what they have to say.” (Not recommended.) And this: “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is” (Count on it.)
To prevent scams, older people – and their caregivers – need to anticipate the financial damage that cognitive decline can cause. …Learn More
September 29, 2020
How High School Finance Courses Fail
In more than 30 states, completing a personal finance course is required for a high school degree.
The requirement started gaining traction around the country in 2005, despite the long-running debate about whether the courses even work.
A new study gets at whether high school instruction is effective by asking a fresh question: do the finance classes make people feel better about their situation – and feeling better about one’s finances is an indication things are, in fact, improving.
This departs from past studies focused on objective measures like credit scores and past-due loans.
The researchers find that high school courses have generally been a positive development: adults who grew up in states that require the courses do, in fact, feel better about their finances compared to people from states lacking a requirement.
But what’s interesting in this study is that a group of disadvantaged Americans feel worse off for having taken the courses: high school graduates who didn’t go on to college. Rather than helping them manage their financial challenges, the classes are only making things worse.
Before examining the reason for this, consider how the researchers measured the feeling of well-being. They used recent data from a series of questions asked by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation: Do you feel you have control over your money? Could you afford an unexpected expense? Do you have a sense of achieving your financial goals?
Most important, FINRA asked, do you have the financial “freedom to make choices that allow a person to enjoy life”? FINRA’s survey was conducted in 2018, but this question is relevant in the COVID-19 recession. Enjoying life is essentially the flip side of having financial stress, which is currently very high among low-income workers without college degrees.
The researchers argue that adults with no more than a high school diploma who’d taken the personal finance classes feel worse, because the classes delivered a “harsh dose of reality” that can “make economically vulnerable people more aware of their precarious financial situation.” …Learn More
December 19, 2019
NFL Rookie Took Finance Class to Heart
Photo courtesy of the New England Patriots.
Joejuan Williams, a rookie defensive back for the New England Patriots, has received a lot of attention for his practice of saving 90 percent of his game-day paychecks. He credits his frugality to a personal finance class at his Nashville, Tenn., high school.
“It completely changed my life,” Williams told The Boston Globe recently. “I’m going to sacrifice now for me to be happy later.”
Williams, having signed a $6.6 million contract this season, isn’t exactly living on the edge. But keep in mind that these sky-high earnings are often temporary for football players. When one considers that the average NFL career lasts about three years, Williams is just playing it smart.
But read on in the Globe article, and a more complex and touching explanation for Williams’ frugality seems to emerge – one that revolves around a childhood watching his single mother live paycheck to paycheck.
“I’ve been stingy with money ever since I was young just because I saw what my mom had to go through,” he told the Globe. He said that he has paid off his mother’s student loans and purchased a car for her.
Although he credits the influence of his personal finance class, psychologists say that adult financial behavior has deep roots in childhood experiences like Williams’. In fact, endless research papers have debunked the effectiveness of financial education. There are numerous reasons for this, including a widespread aversion to math. Human nature is another obstacle: people regularly sacrifice their long-term goals to whim – credit card spending is the classic example.
Williams is different. He has his eye on the future. He is focused on one long-term goal for himself – investing his savings for the future – and one goal for his mother.
“I’m going to give my mom a home,’’ he said. “That’s the only big purchase I have my eyes on.’’
Williams’ high school finance class clearly influenced him. But maybe the lessons stuck because he took them to heart.
Squared Away’s regular posts will return Dec. 31. …