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Evidence Summary

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Financial education may have a positive impact on savings behaviours and record keeping

Miller M, Reichelstein J, Salas C, et al.  Can you help someone become financially capable? A meta-analysis of the literature  Washington: World Bank Group; 2014.

Review question

      Are financial-education interventions effective in improving financial knowledge and behaviours of consumers?

Background

      Financial literacy refers to the ability of individuals to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being.

      Improving financial literacy among the general public, including older adults, is a priority issue for governments. An important reason for the increased attention to financial literacy is the global financial crisis, which highlighted the importance of financial knowledge and skills for consumers.

      This systematic review and meta-analysis examines the effectiveness of financial-education interventions (for example, educational programs, training or other activities) in improving financial knowledge and behaviours.

How the review was done

      A search of peer-reviewed papers was performed using the following search terms: financial awareness, financial capability, financial competence, financial education, financial knowledge and financial literacy. The search covered the period from January 2000 to September 2013.

      Eligible studies examined programs, educational outreach activities, media interventions, as well as other types of communication or training for consumers. These interventions aimed to strengthen knowledge (financial literacy), or modify attitudes and behaviours (financial capability).

      A total of 188 studies were included for the final analysis.

      This systematic review is part of a larger initiative led by the World Bank.

What the researchers found

      The systematic review highlighted the diversity of financial-education interventions examined in the literature, including courses taught in a classroom or workplace, individual counseling, and education interventions through mass media.

      Several topics were covered during these interventions, including: savings, retirement, credit counseling, business management, and mortgages.

      Findings revealed that financial-education interventions may have a positive impact on savings behaviours, and may have a positive impact on record keeping.

      However, there is no evidence that financial-education interventions have a positive impact on retirement savings or loan default rates (which means the rates of people who fail to meet the legal obligations or conditions of a loan).

Conclusion

      Financial-education interventions aiming to improve both financial literacy and capability can have a positive impact in some areas (for example, increasing savings and promoting financial skills such as record keeping), but not in others (for example, loan default rates). 

      The authors called for future research to assess the use of outreach activities to support increased savings. In addition, future research should assess the costs and benefits of financial-education interventions.




Glossary

Meta-analysis
Advanced statistical methods contrasting and combining results from different studies.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

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