Financial Literacy Awareness Still Has Room for Improvement

financial literacy awareness

Financial Literacy Awareness Still Has Room for Improvement by Robyn Kurdek

Financial literacy awareness programs’ impact on retirement savings patterns seems to be headed in a positive direction. Numerous studies on financial literacy awareness conclude that such education efforts do, indeed, have a significant impact on retirement preparedness. However, other studies have found no clear correlation, showing that financial literacy education has changed behavior 0.1% of the time, the indicator of success. However, with financial literacy awareness programs still in their relative infancy, one could argue that the jury is still out on the long-term effectiveness of these programs.

However, a recent study in the Journal of Financial Planning, cited in Forbes, endorses the idea that financial literacy awareness does significantly impact retirement preparedness. However, the results aren’t super-encouraging. It turns out that recent efforts to boost financial literacy awareness may be falling on somewhat deaf ears — or the message just isn’t translating as well as it should. Only 26% of the respondents were able to pass the quiz with a score of 60% or higher. Conducted by the American College of Financial Services, the quiz asked a series of questions around retirement, financial planning, and other financial preparedness topics designed to determine Americans’ retirement readiness and literacy rates. The research consisted of data collected from approximately 1,200 Americans ages 60-75 with at least $100,000 in investable assets. As Forbes aptly points out, that excludes most lower-income cohorts.

The 38-question quiz asked questions on 12 different topics, including taxes, Medicare, Social Security and retirement plans like 401ks. Respondents scored highest on the questions pertaining to Medicare (while also indicating the most concern about changes). Female respondents seemed most concerned about how Medicare changes would impact their financial security. The lowest scores had to do with questions on annuity products.

Despite low financial literacy awareness rates, by contrast, most of the respondents’ retirement confidence was quite high. In fact, respondents indicated they were moderately to extremely confident that they would have enough money for retirement. However, again, the required investable assets for the survey were $100,000, so it’s possible confidence results skewed higher for that reason, Forbes notes.

However, those that passed the financial literacy quiz showed a high aptitude for retirement preparedness. Those with passing marks were:

  • 46 percent more likely to have a long-term care plan in place,
  • 36 percent more confident they could manage their investments in retirement,
  • 16 percent more likely to have a written retirement plan in place,
  • 8 percent more likely to have an estate plan in place, and
  • 87 percent more likely to take reasonable market risks when investing in the market.

Despite the less-than-stellar results from the American College of Financial Services quiz, employers should not give up on financial literacy awareness programs. Just as building wealth takes time, financial literacy awareness isn’t achieved overnight. It takes dedication to instill financial literacy knowledge in America’s workers, along with patience and plenty of repetition. If we don’t continue to spread the word on financial literacy early and often, how can we expect employees to get the message?

Incidentally, plan sponsors who want to gauge their workforce’s (or their own) financial literacy, can find the same quiz here.

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