11

TL;DR I would like to see this site start to become a better and more visible resource for people at the very beginning of the learning curve on financial literacy. Any ideas on how to achieve this?

I recently had an experience that gave me pause. I was going through a fast food drive through and the woman handling my order was asking some questions about my credit card, which is linked to a popular investment firm. I explained how the cash back rewards can be directed to things like an IRA with the investment firm. She did not know what an IRA was, and, unfortunately, the short time at a drive through window is not enough to educate someone on something so important. It would be useful though to be able to point someone like that to a "Quick Start Guide" to financial literacy.

I looked at our FAQ answer here on Meta (Frequently Answered Questions (by topic)), but even that makes assumptions about basic financial literacy. For example, we have a section for questions related to IRAs and 401(k)s but we don't have the most basic questions: what do you need to do to prepare for retirement, what are an IRA and a 401(k), and why should you care about them (if you are in the US of course)? We do have one question about what an IRA is on the SE site itself but it's asked in the context of whether it's appropriate for an Indian citizen, which would cause many (most?) to skip over it.

In short, I feel like we've gotten into a situation where there are no questions about these basics, which self reinforces: people don't find this SE site when searching for basic questions like "What is an IRA?" so they don't find it to ask the questions.

I'm also dissatisfied with the top resources on financial literacy (from a google search for "financial literacy guide"):

  1. https://www.investopedia.com/guide-to-financial-literacy-4800530 : Jumps straight from How to Create a Budget to How to Start Investing without any significant discussion of saving for retirement
  2. https://www.annuity.org/financial-literacy/ : Has minimal discussion of retirement saving before (predictably) stating that annuities are the answer
  3. https://www.financialliteracy101.org/financial-literacy/ : Starts good but then veers into Identity Theft while completely omitting retirement saving
  4. https://bethebudget.com/financial-literacy/ : Dives straight into calculating net worth and discussing types of debt and loan amortization

Although these two seem worthwhile (typical criticisms of DR aside):

  1. https://www.moneygeek.com/financial-planning/resources/financial-literacy-handbook/
  2. https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/what-is-financial-literacy

Without resorting to product / service recommendations, how can we start building a worthwhile (and discoverable) body of questions and answers about the basics of financial literacy?

4
  • 1
    I agree, trying to impart financial wisdom at a fast food window is tough. I once spent a good 20 minutes explaining to a stripper how a Solo 401(k) should be part of her long term planning. Sorry you think my FAQ efforts were a fail. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Jan 21 at 1:49
  • 2
    @JTP-ApologisetoMonica Actually, I think the FAQ is quite good. It’s just that this conversation opened my eyes to a need for even lower level information in addition to what is already there. I had a similar experience when I moved abroad: certain things are taken as common knowledge, so much so that it’s hard to find resources that explain them well and people don’t realize that not everyone has the knowledge. – Eric Jan 21 at 1:56
  • @Eric The thing about 'common knowledge' subjects is that, in my opinion, they really need to be taught on a personal level. It is true that a lot of financial basics [even just 'do not owe money to your cc at the end of the month if at all possible'] is something that could be taught in elementary school. But... that's why elementary schools have teachers - we don't just slap a textbook in front of a 10 year old and ask them to learn civics, because teaching itself is a technical skill, and requires proper socialization of responses. – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Jan 25 at 15:57
  • 1
    When someone completely uninformed asks a question on this site, it is often phrased like 'Should I invest money in [this obvious pyramid scheme]?', but never "How can I find practical solutions to slowly accrue wealth over time by managing my monthly budget & invest in an appropriate way according to my risk profile?". Why that is, should be obvious. – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Jan 25 at 15:59
11

Fundamentally I think the problem is one of scope - for all the good it does, SE is not exactly the best method of doing what you are asking about.

SE is really designed as a repository of information, built over time by specific questions. I see the value of closing items as duplicate, and often do so, but for the most under-informed on financial literacy, what really is needed is a specifically 'personal' touch. Building up vast libraries of information seems more aligned with technical materials rather than low-level 'barely-technical' financial basics.

So paradoxically I think money.SE adds the most value to someone's life when it answers a very specific question for them, but at the same time, the most efficient use of SE in general is with broad-strokes technical info to help someone capable of learning and seeking out answers already.

Even some of the really good ol' standby answers on this site, like Best way to start investing, for a young person just starting their career?, will only add value to someone at the stage where they are actively looking for answers, but the dearth of financial literacy in society is a problem that starts with gradeschool education. People don't ask questions to get answers they aren't aware they need or want.

'Money' can be a terrifying subject, and it is not surprising that (a) people find it hard to trust information that isn't directly responding to their immediate questions [rather than sifting through broader answers not 100% applicable to them]; and (b) people frequently get duped by questionable resources. I have often lamented that a niche career in truly basic financial literacy education [particularly getting into tax or other more technical areas] is a really hard thing to make money from compared with the value of a similar education applied to other areas [corporate finance, etc.].

1
  • 1
    Side comment - perhaps one of the most valuable things about money.SE vs other financial literacy sites, is that connecting to SE network specifically puts you in front of an audience that, in general, is seeking to learn. Writing an answer to someone who understands the basics of coming in humbly for answers works far better than trying to explain to someone who obstinately asks something like 'Why does no one else understand that my hare-brained financial scheme is the best method of making money?'. You can see this impact from the quality of answers on both types of questions here. – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Jan 25 at 15:51
4

For the same reason that Mathematics SE does not seek to teach how addition and multiplication of integers works, or why Sports SE does not tolerate questions of the form "what is cricket?".

Fundamental personal finance knowledge is exactly that, it's the very basics of the topic. Stack Exchange is predicated on users having that basic knowledge before coming here. It's like asking why universities don't teach the periodic table or the colour wheel - the students should know this, and much more besides, before they enrolled at all.

5
  • 2
    Basic arithmetic is taught at the elementary school level while, in the US, it's possible to complete a high school level education without ever learning what an IRA is let alone how to prepare oneself financially for retirement. I understand where you're coming from in that SE is not a replacement for Wikipedia, but I think Money SE is more tolerant of basic questions. For example, we take questions about sugar daddy scams seriously so I don't see why we couldn't field questions about basic financial literacy. – Eric Jan 25 at 23:51
  • "Seriously" as in have devoted a detailed FAQ answer to it and close all further incomings as duplicate, or merely allow them to remain mostly unclosed and sometimes answered properly? – Nij Jan 25 at 23:57
  • @Eric Not even possible, but probable. – Azor Ahai -him- Jan 30 at 0:27
  • @Nij - the FAQ was compiled for several reasons. It was suggested by members as other stacks had useful experience with them. It's a good first visit tool so new members can see examples of good questions and answers by topic. Last, it does serve as a repository of just as it claims, questions that are asked frequently enough so identical ones can be closed as duplicate. If every day a new member asked what the current IRA limit is, and can they deduct the deposit, they be closed. With no more or less (any emotion) than the sugar daddy questions. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Feb 6 at 17:54
  • All well and food, but what relevance does pointing out that there are FAQs and they're useful, have here? – Nij Feb 6 at 21:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .