So Many Courses, So Little Progress: Why Financial Education Doesn't Work - And What Does

22 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2019

See all articles by Martha Menard

Martha Menard

Golden Gate University - Department of Finance & Economics; Questis, Inc.

Date Written: December 2017


Financial stress among employees is reaching epidemic proportions: 75% live paycheck to paycheck, personal savings rates are at their lowest since 2007, and non-mortgage debt levels are higher now than during the Great Recession. It’s no wonder so many people feel unable to pay off their consumer debt or save adequately for retirement, which only makes the situation worse. Because stressed employees bring these financial distractions to the workplace, it seems like a good idea for employers to provide some type of education, perhaps a seminar or lunch and learn, so that employees can become better informed about how to manage their personal finances. But for a variety of reasons, this kind of one-size-fits-all financial education has been demonstrated to have little to no effect on changing real-world financial behaviors. A meta-analysis of more than 200 studies found that educational interventions explained only .1% of the financial behaviors studied. According to recent research, other types of interventions are showing much more promise to effect change. This paper provides an overview of the research regarding the lack of effectiveness of financial education, the reasons why it so often fails, and what does work to improve financial behaviors and outcomes for employees.

Keywords: financial stress, financial education, financial literacy

JEL Classification: J, M

Suggested Citation

Menard, Martha, So Many Courses, So Little Progress: Why Financial Education Doesn't Work - And What Does (December 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Martha Menard (Contact Author)

Golden Gate University - Department of Finance & Economics ( email )

San Francisco, CA
United States

Questis, Inc. ( email )

95 Cannon Street
Charleston, SC 29407
United States

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