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How Financial Literacy Programs Can Add Up

Plant growing out of pennies

The past months have been unnerving and unprecedented. The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone in different ways, and fiscal matters continue to dominate headlines and headspace across the country. When you're in the experiential marketing business with over 20 years of experience executing programs for family audiences, you can't help but muse, "but what about the children?"

No, really.

Not just the children. Let's talk about high school students getting their first jobs with little exposure to constructing budgets, current university students saddled with student loans and millennials aged 23-37 who are living at home at a rate of 1 in 5 according to a Zillow study released in 2019. While crushing student debt, rising housing costs and stagnant wages certainly have played a part in this domestic arrangement, let's not overlook the crumbling foundation this was built upon - Personal Financial Literacy.

Personal Financial Literacy, as defined by The President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, is "the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of well-being." According to the results of a three-year study released last year from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, who surveyed over 27,000 participants, there is a "clear trend of declining financial literacy."

So, where does the average American gain the knowledge and skills integral to successful personal finance habits? Good question. If you guessed high school, you might be interested/bemused/appalled to learn that as of 2020, only 20 states require financial literacy classes as a part of the high school curriculum. That means the model and instruction of financial literacy comes largely by emulating financial behaviors seen (but rarely taught comprehensively) at home.

Experiential marketing has a unique position to reach people in real-world situations where they work and at school. School based programs promote face to face conversation and encourage intergenerational discussions with parents and teachers. Just as we work with clients to create sustainable event footprints, we can also suggest ways to reinforce financial responsibility in small (or large) activations. By offering role-playing scenarios with young adults, gamifying money matters such as budgets and 401K savings, removing the stigma in talking about debt, or offering opportunities for delayed gratification, we could, in turn, influence behavioral adjustments for the next generation of money-earning (and spending) consumers.

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