Financially Fit: Educate Or Legislate?

As a retired adult educator I found two articles that crossed my desk last week to be rather troubling. The first one from The Economist – Anti-Choice suggests that Americans have poor, to very poor, financial literacy. This seems to be especially true for baby-boomers and those close on their heels. The article concludes with some despair that financial education doesn’t appear to work–they don’t mention how the knowledge was imparted to the students or any other pertinent information like age-range, sex, socio-economic, etc. But the gist of the article seems to reinforce the idea, that because of their inability or unwillingness to educate themselves, legislation is needed to “protect” people from their own ignorance.

The second article from the Canadian Payroll Reporter – Nearly one-third of millennials ‘not at all knowledgable’ about RRSP savings: Poll  restricts their poll demographics to Millennials; although, their sample size is very small–just 613 Millennials (18 – 33 years old) were polled. Another 1,502 older than 33 years old were also polled but those results were not mentioned in the article. In any case, they appear to have tested those polled on their knowledge of the rules and regulations surrounding RRSPs (Registered Retirement Savings Plans) — 401(k) for my American readers. The article points out the rather weak knowledge these young adults have about RRSPs. Can this lack of knowledge about RRSPs be used as an indicator of more general financial illiteracy, as discussed in the Anti-Choice article? I don’t know.

If you’re an adult and you feel you don’t know enough about managing your personal finances, you’re not alone; but this stuff is important! Important for you; for your spouse; for your children; for your working life and for your retirement. I admit, the math and the jargon can be intimidating, but so was other math and jargon you’ve learned–baseball, hockey, football–you know it all. The only difference is that sports jargon and stats have no bearing on you, your family or your retirement, so make the effort to learn this stuff. Get yourself FINANCIALLY FIT and it will only enhance your life.

Ask your family and friends, find out how they educated themselves and what you can learn from them. There are many free seminars given by financial advisors who are incredibly knowledgeable and want to share their knowledge with you. And consider hiring a financial advisor; a big part of their job is to educate you.

As a retired adult educator, I have to believe that education and not legislation is the solution. In my opinion, we already have far too much legislation designed to protect us from ourselves and we pay dearly for civil servants to manage and enforce it. So do yourself a favour and learn.