Disrupting the Status Quo

Billy J. Hensley, Ph.D.

By Billy J. Hensley, Ph.D., NEFE Senior Director of Education

In our role within the larger movement to improve the field of financial capability, NEFE has worked diligently to sponsor research that expands understanding of both theory and practice.

Practitioners who talk only to themselves, and researchers, theorists and academics who discuss what their findings mean only within peer-reviewed research literature, are taking the easy road. Circumscribed communications like these create barriers to entry for other points of view and make it easy to miss opportunities to improve on all sides.

It is challenging to bridge practice and inquiry, but NEFE aims to facilitate dialogue among the numerous facets of the financial education community through salons, forums and other convenings. These venues are a way for representatives of all the field’s constituencies to share ideas together – not just physical space, but a mutual desire to understand and learn from one another.

When I joined NEFE, the organization was in the midst of planning the Quarter Century Project (QCP), an initiative to review, collect and disseminate the body of research on financial education from 1985 to 2010. The QCP, a collaboration with project leader Tahira K. Hira, Ph.D., produced a seminal research paper that explained the collective information on financial education and capability research available, the gaps in the research and opportunities for additional inquiry.

This project refined and concentrated the focus of all NEFE’s research and thought leadership activities since 2010. The Quarter Century Project produced a roadmap that guides NEFE’s work, and that we encourage our colleagues to use and reference as well.

This has allowed us to promote a breadth of research topics and approaches that have offered significant advances and spurred further research. Also, we have specifically focused on multidisciplinary methodology and welcomed fields of study closely aligned with, but relatively new to, financial capability.

NEFE strives to sponsor events and studies that work toward improving the financial education outcomes of learners and consumers. NEFE’s sponsorship has included:

  • a meta-analysis of current financial education research, which revealed areas in which financial literacy can still improve;
  • research into vulnerable populations, which has shown the specific needs and context of certain groups;
  • and the creation and examination of new and important data sets, providing significant information on special populations.

These studies demonstrate what can be learned by in-depth quantitative and qualitative research on the determinants of financial literacy and financial behavior. As such, throughout 2016, Digest will share key findings and implications of NEFE- funded research, discussing what the conclusions mean for the broader field and highlighting opportunities for further exploration.

In every research initiative, NEFE aspires to expand the field of financial literacy, and the resulting contributions have served to address some of the gaps in the literature. Our field is far from declaring victory, but we want to be a channel for research that will continue to expand and grow what we know about practice and theory and about our collective successes and needs.

As I have said many times, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to financial education, but our field gains new insights daily. I’m convinced that the more quality research, evaluation and dialogue we can foster, the closer we can get to transcending the factors that inhibit effective financial education.

See the Jan/Feb 2016 E-Digest or download the full NEFE Digest PDF.


  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

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