Beyond the Classroom: Evidence on New Directions in Financial Education

How can financial education design and targeting help to change financial behavior?

Financial education is widely used by governments, financial service providers, and non-governmental organizations as a tool to help people navigate the financial system and make better financial choices. Financial education programs are built on the assumption that education will lead to knowledge, and that knowledge will lead to better choices and improved financial health. A robust body of evidence shows that on average conventional approaches to financial education have not been successful in either imparting lasting knowledge or in changing people’s financial behavior. While these findings may seem discouraging at first glance, the conventional approach to financial education is not the only approach, and several new methods have been rigorously tested in recent years and yielded positive results.

This brief explores the emerging evidence on these new approaches and considers where purveyors of financial education, researchers, and policymakers should go from here. According to the brief, successful programs have one or more of the following characteristics, they are: simple and actionable; personalized; timely; convenient and entertaining and targeted to youth and young adults.

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