Why financial literacy matters
Yes, I’m writing about financial literacy again. No matter where one looks, it has become a global buzzword, laden with concern, generating significant increases now in various initiatives in various countries to develop, publicise and provide access and exposure to programmes teaching financial literacy topics to adults to recommendations to start in primary school.
Why now? There are two predominant factors, in my opinion, both illuminating significant community lifestyle harmony problems.
Factor one: the precipitous, unexpected advent of Covid-19 and its lengthy time of exposure and spread across communities torpedoed families and community finances across the globe.
When you are too sick to work, when you are highly worried about losing your job because no one is shopping, eating out, or buying anything except necessities, when you have lost a major household wage owner in a two-income family, when a loved one (or more) has died, or when the stress from what seemed to be never-ending health challenges, shuffling day-care, home schooling, work-from-home deadlines overwhelmed even the most serene individuals, leaving so many having to also deal with serious financial savings decimation.
Factor two: reports and surveys from educators, politicians, finance leaders, banking and lending institutions, counselling professionals, governments, and non-profit organisations across the North Atlantic Pond (US, UK, Canada) and the OECD – all far more intellectually astute and influential than yours truly – is that despite existing worthy financial literacy programmes, analyses of students and adults scores on basic financial understanding has remained static for at least a decade. In some countries’ testing statistics, high school students have actually slipped in grading scores over the last decade.
A review of national test results commentary in our three largest neighbours is the following:
UK: financial literacy was added to secondary school curriculum in 2014, while a survey conducted with UK adults in 2021 stated “British schools are failing to teach pupils about personal finance, new research has shown. In a survey, commissioned for the Financial Times by Ipsos Mori, 90 per cent of people in England admitted to learning “nothing at all” or “not very much” about finance during their school education.” According to the World Bank, two in three of the global population, including one in three in the UK, are financially illiterate.
Canada: adult population finance knowledge surveys reported better results than the US and the UK.
US: surveys indicate that financial capability is only around 50 per cent, with many Americans struggling with financial stress, 78 per cent of adults living paycheque to paycheque (2017 Career Builder survey).
This is very worrying on an individual, family, community, state, country and regional basis, relative to the economic success of a modern society and the personal financial wellness of families and their communities.
Finances have not become easier – in many areas, they are more complicated than ever, while credit/debt is easier than ever to obtain, with the ramifications of these lending programmes still not well understood.
Financial fraud is rampant with seniors, in particular, as they can become high theft targets if they have not bridged internet acumen. The Canadian Bankers Association has partnered with ABC Life Literacy to introduce digital literacy education for seniors and adults not internet-fluent.
Three new buzzwords are also rampant. Financial wellbeing, financial resilience and financially capable: all three are preferable to literacy, given that it implies that if one does not participate in some programme, one is illiterate. Just about everyone in modern societies has some financial literacy, but what they lack to be more successful is how to solve financial issues for the best outcome – and that requires having the confidence to upskill financial knowledge.
It is not just about the money, financial wellbeing starts with attitudes about oneself, one’s relationship to money, and using money concepts to work out the best financial decisions.
That is not all.
Finance is not simply buying or selling something to make you feel good, help you move up the asset acquisition ladder, take out an insurance policy, apply for credit cards, review your employment status, earn a pension, open an investment account, make a will, etc.
The law is heavily intertwined.
Just about every financial decision has positive or negative consequences – all wrapped up in the primary aspects of law. Yes, law, understanding its bearing on contracts, implied and real responsibilities, fraud, commerce, ethics, effect on related parties, is critical to contract responsibilities for all parties.
Financial capability is now human behaviour analysis on a global scale – understanding what you do know about finance, how you generally behave dealing with finance issues, and how you can find the resources to make the best financial decision for you and your family. When you are able to go through that process comfortably and successfully, then you have financial resilience and are in a state of financial wellbeing.
What could be better than that?
How do you think us Bermuda islanders would score on a financial literacy test?
"Half of UK adults need ‘urgent help’ managing their money“, Financial Times, Claer Barrett
“Eye-opening financial literacy statistics in the US”, OppU, Samantha Rose, https://www.opploans.com/oppu/articles/statistics-financial-literacy/
“New survey finds Canadians get passing grade on financial knowledge but more than half underestimate how much they know”, Canada Life
OECD/INFE 2020 International Survey of Adult Financial Literacy,
Martha Harris Myron’s book, The Dawn of New Beginnings: Your Back-2-Basics Financial Review to Dramatically Improve Your Lifestyle, is now available on Amazon. The book is the first of the Bermuda Islander Fundamental Financial Planning Primer Series to promote financial literacy in Bermuda.
The book is available in E-book format ($2.99) with video/podcasts linked and paperback (297 pages) $36.18. https://tinyurl.com/2bd7b4pj
All proceeds are donated to Bermuda registered charities – in 2022, the Bermuda Sloop Foundation.
• Martha Harris Myron, a native Bermudian with US connections, is the author of Amazon-published Bermuda Islander Fundamental Financial Planning Primers and a consultant to the Olderhood Group Bermuda Ltd