Donell Edwards, Blogger
About Donell Edwards: Donell Edwards is President of CWR Media and is also founder and publisher of The College World Reporter (CWR) magazine and CWR World News & Information Service. He is also a professional speaker, freelance writer, and entrepreneur.
Know Your Money
Monday – April 6, 2015
Financial Literacy Month 2015
Beware Of Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing
By Donell Edwards
As we continue to celebrate Financial Literacy Month, today was supposed to be the beginning of budget week, focusing on how to prepare a realistic budget, how to follow that budget, and all things budget related. However, as I constantly conduct research to better provide information for readers I discovered a powerful article written by consumer advocate Ralph Nader that I just had to write today’s commentary about. Mr. Nader’s article, “Dont Be Fooled – Financial Literacy Month?” appears in the April 2, 2015 issue of CounterPunch Magazine online.
Mr. Nader suggests that a more appropriate name would be “Financial Illiteracy Month” because according to him “…financial literacy as it is generally taught does not work.” He cites the country’s burgeoning student loan debt as just one part of the problem and states “Many of these young people already have other credit issues that can impact their ability to get a good job, or ultimately buy a home or build a savings and retirement account.”
Mr. Nader says that financial literacy education is not working because it is “…largely funded by the very same businesses that prosper when young people make poor money decisions — big banks, credit card companies and other huge financial industry businesses.”
Although I agree with Mr. Nader in principle, it is inaccurate to say that all financial literacy education efforts have failed, and Mr. Nader’s supposition that all institutions that may benefit from “poor money decisions” of consumers who sponsor financial literacy education are vultures just trying to create or expand their market can be successfully challenged.
In his article post on our blog from April 22, 2014, “Have Financial Literacy Efforts In America Been Successful?,” Mr. Lionel Shipman, a contributing writer and owner of Shipman Consulting, a personal and business finance-consulting firm specializing in helping individuals and businesses improve their financial outlook, Mr. Shipman states the following regarding the effectiveness of financial literacy efforts:
It depends on how one would measure success versus failure. Regarding financial literacy, I believe failure can be measured by the number of consumers who are enduring the consequences of bad decisions. Success can be measured by the number of bad decision-makers changing their ways in a positive direction and applying some basic money skills with financial transactions.
In Mr. Shipman’s viewpoint, success or failure regarding financial literacy education is determined by how the end-user applies what has been taught. It comes down to what choices people make, and some people who have received solid financial literacy education may still make bad decisions because they do not have the willpower to apply what they have learned. So, has financial literacy education failed, or have those individuals just made bad decisions? The answer is obvious.
Supporting the fact that financial literacy education is working Mr. Shipman in his article further states:
Even though there are people who will never learn the “financial” lesson, some have not only learned the financial lesson, but they are teaching others how to manage their finances soundly.
In regard to Mr. Nader’s concern about much of financial literacy education being funded by large financial institutions that benefit from the bad money management decisions some make, I too have that concern. I am very careful of the sources that I use and the resources that I recommend. I try very hard to do my due diligence to ensure that my sources have no improper relationship with sponsors or any connection with those who may have an ulterior motive. Because in some instances, just as Mr. Nader suggests, there may be a hidden agenda to present the appearance of providing a service that will benefit the consumer, when in reality the solutions provided will ultimately be in the best interest of the sponsor; a proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.
However, this is not true of all financial institutions. Many are genuinely concerned and are responsible companies that are actually trying to help educate consumers so that they may make better money decisions. One that I am particularly excited about is the Better Money Habits which is a partnership between Bank of America and Khan Academy.
Most are aware of the poor reputation that Bank of America has in regard to being a friend of consumers, however, if you are not familiar with Khan Academy and its founder, Sal Khan, I suggest that you visit the Khan Academy website and learn about this incredible man and his remarkable work in not only making it easier to learn math, but making it fun. Mr. Khan is a man of unquestioned integrity, and that is my point in regard to Mr. Nader’s assumption that all financial literacy education has failed because most, or in his opinion, all of it is in some way sponsored by big banks and financial institutions who benefit from the plight of those who make poor money decisions.
It takes money to finance an effective educational campaign, and some reputable financial advisors who have a long-standing record of integrity rely on sponsorship in order to conduct their community outreach work in providing financial literacy education, whether that is in the form of in person seminars and workshops, webcasts, podcasts, websites, or other means to help as many people as they can. Just because these individuals or organizations are sponsored by companies that may have a questionable consumer record or may appear to have an ulterior motive, that does not necessarily mean that the education provided should be suspect. The character and integrity of the provider is more important than the reputation of the sponsor.
It is also interesting that Mr. Nader focused his attention on youth, and that is where we have the greatest opportunity to make a significant impact in breaking the chain of financial illiteracy in America. If we help young people to develop strong money management skills, and more importantly, help them to overcome the “I want everything and I gotta have it right now” mentality that prevails among so many today, and teach them “sacrifice” and help them develop “willpower,” we may be able to see a generation in the future that has the knowledge and self-discipline to make wise money decisions.
Although I differ in some regards with the position taken by Mr. Nader in his article, I do agree that it is very important to be cautious in deciding whom to seek help from in gaining financial literacy education, and I strongly recommend the article as a must read. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Here is the link to the article:
Here is today’s step to financial wellness from Thirty Steps to Financial Wellness developed by Money Management International:
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Disclaimer: I have a Bachelor of Business Administration degree but I am not a financial adviser. However, I have acquired years of knowledge about personal money management through my life experience working through my own personal finances that allows me to share that knowledge with readers of Know Your Money. The Know Your Money Blog posts written by me are my own common sense observations and opinions and are for informational use only. Although my blog includes contributions from experienced financial professionals, please make your own financial decisions based on personal research or contact a financial adviser.
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