Recently, I read Annamaria Lusardi’s article in Forbes about the importance of financial literacy in light of the COVID-19 economic recession.
I’ve felt the devastating financial consequences of the pandemic in my own community: An eerily empty downtown. Jobs harder to come by. Dozens of restaurants closed for good.
In the midst of this nationwide hardship, Lusardi (herself an economist and personal finance professor) and a team of co-authors set out to review the research and answer the question: Could building financial literacy really build financial resilience for American families? Or, more simply: does financial literacy work?
Her team’s findings confirm what the team at Zogo already believed to be true: that financial education makes a difference — a great difference — in people’s lives.
Here’s how Lusardi put it:
“The impact of financial education is big enough to matter. And we estimate the impact of financial education to be similar to the effects found in other fields, such as the influence of education on math and reading. It is the same level of influence that results from interventions designed to stop and prevent smoking, to improve health or to spark energy conservation.”
And if that doesn’t convince you, there’s this: in their review, Lusardi’s team found no indication that the impact of financial education diminishes over time.
“Does financial education work?” Lusardi writes. “Our answer is a resounding ‘yes.’”
I want to make it clear: financial education won’t fix everything. There are economic, geographic, racial, social and all other kinds of barriers to financial well-being that Americans must address if we want every individual to have an equal opportunity for true financial wellbeing. Knowing how the system works won’t fix what’s broken.
But one thing’s for sure: you can’t change the game if you don’t know the rules.
I’m a 22-year-old young professional who graduated into a world in the middle of a global crisis and got a job at a financial education company, which is to say that every day is a financial literacy crash course with real-life implications. And while I may be young, I’m sure I can’t be the only adult who feels like she’s been thrown into a world she doesn’t understand — one where dollars appear and disappear just as quickly, where the expenses pile up while the income doesn’t budge, where a bunch of vague and difficult numbers seem to make the decisions for you.
It’s hard to feel empowered to reach my goals when the financial world can sometimes make me feel like a freshman English major in an advanced chemistry class.
In a world where businesses disappear overnight, where we weigh the risk of simple tasks like going to the grocery store or the gym, where even the ability to see our families for the holidays is still up in the air — it’s time to give individuals the tools they need to navigate uncertainty in where it matters the most.
Financial education works. Now more than ever, it’s time to ensure that every American has access to it.