The month of April is internationally recognized as the Financial Literacy Month, with more and more countries adopting this practice, establishing programs and organizing activities to enhance financial knowledge and skills, both for children and adolescents and teenagers. On the occasion of the beginning of this month, actions and initiatives are taken which are extended throughout the year, in television and radio stations, in the daily and periodical press, especially through schools, community groups and citizens’ associations and, of course, through the Internet.
Dedicating April to initiatives and actions to strengthen financial literacy is a truly long-standing tradition worldwide. A prime example is the United States with a very important history of recognizing financial literacy at the highest institutional level. Indicatively, the following points are mentioned – stations:
• In 2000, the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) introduced for the first time in the country’s history the Youth Financial Literacy Day, an initiative which later, together with the Jump $ tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, extended for one month.
• In 2003, the United States Senate designated April as the Financial Literacy for Youth Month.
• The culmination came in March 2004, when April was recognized by a Senate resolution as the National Financial Literacy Month.
• Just a few years later, in January 2008, the then President of the United States, George W. Bush, set up a special sixteen-member Advisory Committee on Financial Alphabets (President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy), effectively assuming himself as President. lead efforts to improve the understanding of financial products and their terms, expand the ability of citizens to access financial products and services, as well as the universal supply of appropriate measures to protect consumers.
In our country, the Institute of Financial Literacy (www.gfli.gr) plays a leading role in this field. As early as 2016, it carries out important actions, enters into strong alliances and partnerships with companies, market players and educational institutions of all levels, organizes information conferences, speeches and visits to schools, creates pioneering book editions for Greek and European data. at the same time presents a rich research project with published research and academic articles in international – top scientific journals in the field, with parallel significant recognition by various institutions in Greece. The crowning achievement of the Institute’s annual work is undoubtedly the organization of the Annual International Conference on Financial Literacy, every year from 2017 onwards, in April, with the participation of celebrities from Greece and the international community.
But April 2020, in particular, is perhaps one of the most critical periods in the recent past, with financial knowledge and skills more than ever needed for the present and the future. The coronation crisis, in addition to national health systems, has dragged on international financial markets, the supply network of all goods and, above all, medical supplies and food, changed models and forms of employment, disrupted traditional forms of learning in schools and universities. , while contributing to and contributing to the creation or strengthening of various causes of anxiety and insecurity for citizens internationally.
We are currently rekindling interest in concepts such as saving, emergency capital, spending our money wisely on a family budget, using digital payment methods and other transactions, and more complex schemes such as health insurance. our health care, insurance coverage for loss of income, private savings and retirement programs, the procedures for inclusion in tax relief, etc.
Unfortunately, a significant portion of the population, especially in the countries most affected by the corona, were not sufficiently prepared to have a high level of savings, a strong emergency capital with which they would be able to cover their household living expenses for them. for months to come. In fact, in the past, they neglected the adoption and implementation of the principles of good financial management, Personal Finance.
Of course, reference to this situation is not made to demonstrate our shortcomings and insufficient level of preparation, but to highlight the criticality, the necessity of implementing good management practices of our financial issues, as soon as possible. And all this as the so-called financial stress, ie the stress we have not knowing if we will be able to meet our basic personal and family financial obligations, is at a very high level in the world.
The first modern research on financial stress after the coronavirus crisis took place in the United States from 7 to 9 April. The survey was conducted online, with the number of participants reaching 2018 adult American citizens. The results of the research, part of which will be presented below, come to substantially confirm the common sense and common concerns we all share. However, we hope that through these reflections, we will recognize the importance of timely preparation and settlement of our financial situation as well as the benefits of building, proper development and general strengthening of our personal financial knowledge, skills and habits – practices, accordingly. with our age, our work and family situation and other factors.
According to a survey published by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), almost 9 out of 10 respondents, or 88%, say that their coronary heart disease crisis is causing them financial distress.
More than half of the respondents (54%) state that among the 5 most important issues that create the most financial stress for them is insufficient savings, with 41% of the total sample reporting emergency funds and 23% savings for retirement. At the same time, almost half (48%) say they are concerned about their ability to pay their current or future bills, with 28% of the total sample reporting rent and utility bills, and 19% accounting debts for medical expenses.
It is interesting to note that 39% of respondents who work say that stress about their job stability is among their most important concerns, even at a time when the United States Department of Labor is announcing that Unemployment benefits are being offered to ten American citizens.
In addition, 29% of the total sample report that they are concerned about possible fluctuations in their income (for example, loss of income or reduced income), while 25% report that they are concerned about the volatility of financial markets.
Another important finding that substantiates the universality of financial stress (perhaps for different individual reasons, of course) is the observation that the level of concern about personal financial status remains virtually unchanged across the income range. According to the survey, 79% of Americans with a total annual household income (household income, HHI) of less than $ 50,000 worry at least moderately and above (on a scale; · not at all; too much), while 73% with a total annual household income of between $ 50,000 and $ 100,000 have the same anxiety rating, respectively, and 79% with a total annual household income of more than $ 100,000.
Looking to the future and the prospect of their personal financial situation after a year, 41% of respondents said they felt “very or somewhat anxious”, while 34% felt “very or somewhat optimistic”. Among other things, NEFE President and CEO Billy Hensley, Ph.D., says Americans are historically very optimistic as a nation despite their potentially poor financial situation at the moment, and acknowledges that the results of this research highlight a much more pessimistic.
One of the most notable findings of the survey is the fact that the vast majority of Americans, about 75%, say they have taken steps to adjust their finances to the corona era. 42% of respondents say they have reduced their monthly expenses, 26% have postponed an important financial decision (such as buying or selling a house, or some other very expensive purchase) and 22% have increased their savings to save money. (for example for emergencies or retirement).
The survey found that 17% of respondents had used the emergency funds they had saved in the past, while 6% said they had made a partial redemption (actually borrowed a sum of money) from their retirement-savings program. In addition, 12% report that they intend to defer account payments / debt repayments, and 10% report that they have taken on additional debt through their credit cards.
So considering how the current situation affects us according to these recent findings, but also according to the experience from similar studies in the past, one of the main conclusions we should draw is that financial stress should not lead us to the wrong. financial options. Such options can be borrowing and over-indebtedness (especially through the use of credit cards), the redemption of money from savings or retirement insurance programs, the circumvention of our family budget, the choice of non-payment of our loan, tax or levies. the choice not to pay the next installments of our personal savings programs as well as a plethora of other, at least “optimal” moves, in today’s turbulent and ever-changing national and global financial environment.
In conclusion, this situation is perhaps the most critical moment for the economy since the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the ensuing economic downturn. On April 1, in a month dedicated to financial literacy, during which there was no global wealth of action to inform and raise public awareness of the respective issues.
At one point in time, however, we will need solid financial literacy bases as well as sound and consistent financial advice to navigate safely, us and our loved ones, beyond the crisis of the corona, the duration and size of which unfortunately no one can predict. But the basic principles and good practices of managing our money remain the same, and some of them, such as the percentage of savings or the percentage of household expenses, can from time to time be adjusted for our optimal adaptation to the new reality.
* Article by Mr. Eleftherios Nikolaou, Graduate Engineer of Production and Management, MBA, Scientific Associate of the Institute of Financial Literacy, as published on euro2day.gr