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University of Wisconsin Research Shows Real Gains From Financial Education

J. Michael Collins of the University of Wisconsin-Madison presented research on the value of financial education at GWSB’s Global Center for Financial Literacy seminar series on Dec. 13.

A study of credit union employees found that financial literacy education corresponds to important improvements in financial behavior, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher.

J. Michael Collins, assistant professor and director of the university’s Center for Financial Security, presented results of the study, “Investor Education for Credit Union Employees:  Survey Results for Wisconsin,” on Dec. 13 at the last installment of GWSB’s Global Center for Financial Literacy seminar series for this year.

The study was based on surveys administered in 2009-10 by university researchers in cooperation with the Wisconsin Credit Union League. The surveys were followed by a nine-part online financial education series given to hundreds of employees at Wisconsin credit unions as part of a larger experiment to see whether online education could be effective in improving financial knowledge and changing behavior.

Participation was voluntary, though employees were given paid work time to complete the survey and the online course, Collins said.

Overall, the results showed that financial knowledge rose most dramatically in areas that the credit union employees didn’t focus on in their daily jobs. For instance, their scores for knowledge of stocks and bonds rose 21 percent following the education course, compared with an increase of 3-to-4 percent for knowledge of interest and credit.

There were also changes in behavior, with 8 percent of participants reporting opening individual retirement accounts; 6 percent reporting establishing written budgets; 5 percent reporting drafting written financial plans; and 5 percent saving for three months of expenses; after the completion of the education course.

The research was funded by a grant from the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that supports investor education.  The research brief was published by the Filene Research Institute, a credit union and consumer-finance think tank headquartered in Madison, Wisc.

For more on this study, and other research presented by Collins at GWSB, go here.

Posted by gwsb on December 18, 2012 | Filed under: GWSB News.

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