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Financial wellbeing and some problems in assessing its link to financial education

Tatom, John (2010): Financial wellbeing and some problems in assessing its link to financial education. Published in: Networks Financial Institute Working Paper Series , Vol. Networ, No. 2010-WP-03 (1 October 2010): pp. 1-14.

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In 2009, the National Endowment for Financial Education initiated a project to study the “Implications of a Quarter Century Research in Personal Finance.” As part of that effort, one of the major themes chosen was to study the measurement and evaluation of participant outcomes. This paper is part of the investigation of measurement and evaluation. It focuses more on what the macro-measures of financial wellbeing are that financial education is aimed at improving and the extent to which these larger scale measures can be improved by financial education, as well as obstacles to good evaluations and limitations of correlation outcomes. The case for improving financial education rests upon (1) the hypothesis that financial education can improve financial wellbeing, (2) the documented low state of financial literacy and individual satisfaction with their financial knowledge, behavior and financial outcomes of consumer decision making, and finally (3) the stress that recent financial shocks have put on household wellbeing. This article also reviews some of those recent changes and the initial recovery from the most recent shock to wellbeing. Section I reviews macro measures of wellbeing and the principal measures and approaches of most studies of the effects of financial education programs. Section II reviews the extent of two major shocks to household net worth in the past decade, some of the potential stress for households this created and the implications for the importance of financial education. Section III reviews some of the principal obstacles to effective assessment and the difficulties with reliance on simple correlations of financial programs and outcomes for such assessments.

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