New Report Addresses How to Increase Effectiveness of Financial Education Programs

Financial Security is Goal for Creative, Comprehensive Symposium 

Date: July 18, 2006

Contact: Paul Golden 303-224-3514, [email protected]

ENGLEWOOD, COLORADO—Despite the abundance of resources available to help consumers learn how to achieve financial security, statistics such as a national savings rate near zero,[1] national consumer debt over $2 trillion[2] and 1.6 million bankruptcy filings in 2004[3] indicate that many people aren’t using this information to their benefit by taking the necessary action that would improve their financial health. In an effort to respond to this dismal financial picture, the National Endowment of Financial Education® (NEFE®), a Colorado-based nonprofit organization, has issued a report that explores how to motivate people to increase their positive actions toward achieving long-term financial stability. The report, titled “Closing the Gap Between Knowledge and Behavior: Turning Education into Action,” summarizes the results a of symposium that the organization hosted last fall in Denver.

The symposium was the first such event to combine financial educators with leaders from other fields—neuroscience, change theory, behavioral economics and psychology—with the common goal of identifying new ways to help individuals take action to create a healthier financial future.

The event provided a unique opportunity to examine behavior change through the lenses of other disciplines. Its purpose was to promote learning across multiple professional domains, all of which seek to promote healthy well-being, whether physical, mental, emotional or financial, and to glean strategies from these other disciplines that may have practical implications for the financial literacy field.

Participants at the event included representatives from academia, nonprofit and membership associations, broadcast media, financial services, foundations, government, corporations and advocacy groups. The event was organized around four featured presentations that examined topics such as the implications of brain biology on behavior, effective treatment programs that incorporate change theory, observed economic behavior versus traditional economic theory and the psychology of an individual’s money personality.

Participants learned a variety of strategies to:

  • Help people counteract their tendencies to procrastinate and instead take immediate action for a healthier financial future.
  • Assess a person’s readiness to modify their behavior and adapt interventions to meet people where they are in the process of change.
  • Create programs that support an individual’s particular style of money management.

The symposium also laid the groundwork for considering how research from a variety of fields can be applicable to financial literacy programs. The participants agreed on important “next steps” for research to ensure that it supports financial education professionals in closing the gap between knowledge and behavior, including:

  • Development of standardized measurement tools to help determine a client’s mastery of key financial concepts and practices.
  • Initiation of longitudinal studies to better understand financial behavior over time.
  • Continued implementation of studies that measure the effectiveness of current financial education programs.
  • Identification of best practices—those professional practices that, when used, producethe greatest positive outcomes.
  • Research that studies the importance of delivery timing for financial education programs, so that educators can respond effectively to “teachable moments,” time-critical or age-related training opportunities.
  • Establishment of a centralized research repository that would provide summaries of past financial literacy findings to which the practitioner community could refer regularly.
  • Identification of barriers that prevent people from taking action to achieve a particular financial goal, and the subsequent development of intervention strategies to counteract these challenges.
  • Initiation of research studies identifying the structures that promote healthy financial decision making and discourage procrastination, such as automatic enrollment of employees into 401(k) programs.
  • Undertaking of research to understand the developmental process involved in the formulation of an individual’s financial behavior.

Details about these conclusions and other findings from the symposium are available in the full white paper report, now available to download on the NEFE Web site, at From the homepage, click on “Innovative Thinking,” then “Research and Strategy” and look for the link to “Closing the Gap Between Knowledge and Behavior: Turning Education into Action.”

The National Endowment for Financial Education is an independent, nonprofit foundation committed to educating Americans about personal finance and empowering them to make positive and sound decisions to reach financial goals. 


[1] Bureau of Economic Analysis,

[2] Federal Reserve,

[3] Administrative Office of the United States Courts,



  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]