Excerpts from “The Financial Education Fallacy” & “Against Financial Literacy”, by Lauren E Willis

Some interesting perspectives on arguments against Financial Education/Literacy projects:

The Financial Education Fallacy by Lauren E Willis – Excerpt from the paper:

One clue that financial education is not the only politically feasible path is the amount of money that industry spends on advocating for and funding financial education programs, even though consumers who exercise welfare enhancing personal financial behaviors typically are less profitable for industry. Firms sometimes support these programs so as to use them as marketing opportunities. But firms also support programs when they have no control over the content. Why? Firms fear the other forms of regulation they believe they would face if they could not point to financial education as the cure for consumer financial woes. But if the inefficacy of current programs were known and the costs of effective financial education were truly understood, other forms of regulation  would move to the fore.

Against Financial Literacy Education by Lauren E Willis – Excerpt

Now that financial products are so complex and fluid that few can understand them well, financial-literacy education is a necessary detour on the path to moral blameworthiness. Given the vagaries of the stock market, a losing investment strategy would be difficult to characterize as a direct result of irresponsibility, laziness, greed, or abject stupidity. But with the education model, the consumer can be blamed for failing to become sufficiently literate to handle her retirement savings.

With its focus on the responsibility and efficacy of the individual, the financial-literacy model absolves financial-services firms and  policymakers and deflects inquiry away from systemic societal and market failures…Covertly, the model dupes consumers into thinking they can master the financial-services market, while placing blame upon them for their failure to do so, deflecting political pressure for change.

Leave a Reply