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Financial Literacy Solutions, Information-Design Edition

In our latest podcast, “What Do Hand-Washing and Financial Illiteracy Have in Common?” we talked about America’s financial literacy problem, a topic we’ve written about before. In the podcast, two Council of Economic Advisers chairmen discuss the role of financial illiteracy in the recession. And economist Annamaria Lusardi and legal scholar Lauren Willis offer their solutions to the problem.

Two designers, Tristan Cook and Thomas Nelson of Humans in Design, also have a pitch. Read More »





More Depressing News on America’s Financial Literacy (or Lack Thereof)

I’ve written on the woeful state of Americans’ financial literacy a few times in the past. There is probably no academic researcher more attuned to the problem than Annamaria Lusardi of Dartmouth. This week’s NBER e-mail blast describing the latest crop of economics working papers includes nine papers; of those, four are written or co-written by Lusardi on this topic.

Among the highlights (or, I should say, lowlights); the bolding is mine:

Americans’ Financial Capability

This paper examines Americans’ financial capability, using data from a new survey. Financial capability is measured in terms of how well people make ends meet, plan ahead, choose and manage financial products, and possess the skills and knowledge to make financial decisions. The findings reported in this work paint a troubling picture of the state of financial capability in the United States.
The majority of Americans do not plan for predictable events such as retirement or children’s college education. Most importantly, people do not make provisions for unexpected events and emergencies, leaving themselves and the economy exposed to shocks.

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One Small Step for Financial Literacy

Annamaria Lusardi, one of the leading academic lights of financial literacy, has begun a new Financial Literacy Center. Read More »





Is Teaching Financial Literacy a Waste of Time?

Not long ago, I wrote about the sad state of financial literacy in the U.S., and how some people, like Annamaria Lusardi of Dartmouth, are proposing widespread education to fix the problem. But in a brief Money magazine Q&A, Lauren Willis, who teaches financial-products regulation at Loyola Law School, says that’s a waste of time. […] Read More »





Financial Literacy Begins at Home

This morning, my six-year-old son Solomon was having breakfast and watching his favorite TV show, Really Wild Animals. (It’s a great show, National Geographic cinematography with quippy narration by — I kid you not — Dudley Moore.) Apparently the same commercials come on the show every morning, because I heard Solomon reciting along with one […] Read More »





FREAK-est Links

1. Israel’s folding car can park in a motorcycle parking spot. (HT: Yehuda Simon)

2. The economics of online dating: an economist explains the marketplace of online love.

3. The perverse incentives of prestigious science journals.

4. Not just a piggy bank: toys to encourage financial literacy.





With Age Comes (Economic) Wisdom

A new study seems to confirm the adage that older means wiser, at least when it comes to making decisions about economic matters. From ScienceDaily:

To conduct their research, [Ye] Li and his colleagues recruited a group of 336 people — 173 younger (ages 18 to 29) and 163 older (ages 60 to 82) — and asked them a series of questions that measured economic decision making traits. They also administered a battery of standard fluid and crystallized intelligence tests.

These traits included temporal discounting (how much people discount future gains and losses), loss aversion (how much the valuation of losses outweigh gains of the same magnitude), financial literacy (understanding financial information and decisions) and debt literacy (understanding debt contracts and interest rates).

They found the older participants performed as well or better than the younger participants in all four decision-making measures. The older group exhibited greater patience in temporal discounting and better financial and debt literacy. The older participants were somewhat less loss averse, but the result did not reach standard levels of significance.

“The findings confirm our hypothesis that experience and acquired knowledge from a lifetime of decision making offset the declining ability to learn new information,” Li said.

(HT: R.E. Riker)





How Much Financial Inequality Is Due to Financial Illiteracy?

Annamaria Lusardi, whose ground-breaking research on financial literacy has been featured here several times, has put out a new working paper (with co-authors Pierre-Carl Michaud and Olivia S. Mitchell) that could be read as laying much of the blame for the lack of household wealth at the foot of the members of said household. The paper is called “Optimal Financial Knowledge and Wealth Inequality” (abstract; PDF):

While financial knowledge is strongly positively related to household wealth, there is also considerable cross-sectional variation in both financial knowledge and net asset levels.  To explore these patterns, we develop a calibrated stochastic life cycle model featuring endogenous financial knowledge accumulation.  The model generates substantial wealth inequality, over and above that of standard life cycle models; this is because higher earners typically have more hump-shaped labor income profiles and lower retirement benefits which, when interacted with precautionary saving motives, boost their need for private wealth accumulation and thus financial knowledge.

Our simulations show that endogenous financial knowledge accumulation has the potential to account for a large proportion of wealth inequality. 

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