Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Financial Literacy Seminar Series restarts

I am very happy to announce that the Financial Literacy Seminar Series restarts this week. I have mentioned the series in previous posts and I am eagerly anticipating the inaugural seminar of the spring term to be held this Thursday, March 8.

After our last seminar in December we fielded a short online survey to ask our seminar attendees about the series. We received a lot of feedback and we have been analyzing it to continue to improve the series. Because we are nerdy economists, I cannot resist providing some of the statistics from the survey (but I will spare you the graphs and pie charts). As many as 76% of seminar attendees rated the seminars of consistently high quality—a finding that boosted my ego. Given that we had different seminar formats last fall, we asked what was preferred; nearly half of respondents prefer a seminar with one discussant and about one-third like short presentations with a panel discussion. We also asked about seminar topics. Retirement planning/saving, measurement of financial literacy, and financial education programs are the topics of interest cited most frequently by survey respondents.

Armed with all of this evidence and determined to do better each term, we have implemented the following changes to the seminar series:

Starting this semester we will have a Distinguished Financial Literacy Lecture. For this special seminar we will invite a speaker who has made a long-standing contribution to the field and who will discuss his or her research program rather than a specific paper. The distinguished speaker for the spring 2012 term is Peter Tufano, Dean of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

We will coordinate our seminar series with DC meetings of other groups focused on financial literacy to maximize attendance. This spring, we plan to coordinate the seminar series with events organized by the American Savings Education Council (ASEC), the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), and FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

We will conduct short interviews with the speakers about the main findings in their papers. These interviews will be posted on the FLSS web page along with the papers and presentations. Together with blog entries written to provide a summary of each seminar, we hope to distill the research presented in the series to its essential findings and implications.

We are exploring ways to encourage interaction between our seminar series and researchers and practitioners beyond the DC area. We are making contact with several national networks of researchers and practitioners working in financial literacy and plan to make use of technology to connect with remote audiences. We will also explore the possibility of sponsoring a conference on financial literacy, potentially with several government agencies interested in this topic.

Finally, we will have not only discussants but also a panel of experts to present work on effective financial education programs, and we will try to cover several of the topics that were of interest to seminar attendees.

We are thrilled that Peter Tufano has accepted our invitation to give the Distinguished Financial Literacy Lecture this week. His accomplishments are so many that I can’t begin to list all of them. He has developed courses on consumer finance, founded a non-profit R&D lab for new financial product development (, and served on advisory groups in the US (and now the UK) addressing the issue of financial inclusion. Before joining Oxford, Tufano spent 33 years at Harvard, most recently serving as Professor and Senior Associate Dean at Harvard Business School, as well as being the co-Founder of the Harvard University Innovation Lab (i-Lab).

I can only say that I cannot wait to hear Peter’s talk this Thursday!

The program for the spring 2012 Financial Literacy Seminar Series is provided on our web site: