Like most education, financial literacy is important but will likely only have an impact if it's relevant and engaging, not a one size fits all. American Economist Richard Thaler wrote an article on financial literacy back in 2013 for the New York Times, with research saying that the successful delivery of financial education was about 'just in time' education that is offered at the crucial time of the decision making process - like lessons on student loans just before graduation, or tips on mortgage options before buying a house. He also suggested that smartphones could make the system more user friendly, thus 'making it easier for people to make sound decisions.'
It's Financial Literacy Month in the USA and a forthcoming Center for Financial Services Innovation study shows only 1/3 of Fin Services companies offer any sort of products to help with budgeting and only 35% of executives said their institutions are tracking financial health outcomes. There is a disconnect between what is on offer and what the customer might need or want. The high adoption rate of micro-investing and micro-savings apps in the USA, UK and Europe shows us that there are millions of people keen to use the funds they have, to save more, pay debts or just manage it better.
In her interesting article for American Banker, Jen Tescher, the President and CEO of Center for Financial Services Innovation talks about the huge financially vulnerable population, saying that they "need is access to high-quality products and experiences built to help them succeed by people who truly understand their financial situations and foibles. They need real-time advice and guidance, tailored to their specific situation and immediately actionable." It's true that financial services have not been very inclusive in their messaging in the past, and we have often seen them miss the mark with financial education because it's just not interesting, simple or repeatable.
With Gen Z being the first truly digital generation living on mobile technology, plus the 2+ billion in emerging economies who might be unbanked or reliant on smartphones for mobile payments or financial services, there is a real opportunity for lessons to be in our hands, timely, personalised and engaging, so maybe the true impact of data driven financial education is yet to come.