I was delighted to be invited to the Financial Services Council Conference this month to talk about financial literacy.
In a Masterclass session led by Miles Larbey, Senior Executive Leader for financial literacy at ASIC, and alongside fellow panelists, Linda Elkins, Executive General Manager at Colonial First State and Rachel Milum, Partner at KPMG, we discussed the current state of financial literacy in Australia.
By every measure, there are still significant numbers of Australians who find dealing with money stressful or who simply don’t know how best to manage their money for now and for the future. This knowledge is what drives me every day. So I was surprised that my key takeout from the conference session was realising how far we have actually come in the last 10-15 years.
In that time, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of financial literacy as a key life skill.
It has attracted bi-partisan support with successive federal government’s investing in ASIC’s MoneySmart website – arguably one of the world’s best examples of providing a mainstream audience with easy-to-understand, independent information and tools to help them with their finances.
The push to get financial literacy into schools has paid dividends with ASIC’s MoneySmart Teaching developing a comprehensive range of education resources that are now being incorporated into the curriculum in schools around Australia.
We also now have a comprehensive survey of Australian adults financial literacy as a result of ANZ’s significant investment into research on the issue. The findings of the ANZ’s Survey of Adult Financial Literacy, conducted every two years since 2002, help inform policy makers, academics and program developers.
More and more, NGOs are seeing the importance of prevention rather than cure when working with people in financial crisis. As a result, most of the country’s major charities have developed and/or implemented financial literacy education programs as part of their overall offering.
Financial services institutions are seeing they have a responsibility as well and either backing specific programs (like Comm Bank’s StartSmart, NAB and StepUp and ANZ’s MoneyMinded) or better integrating financial education into their every day business.
I don’t for a minute underestimate the task at hand but it’s worth remembering that progress has been made. If we can continue to work together, share our learnings, strive to reach more people and remain committed to improving the financial literacy of all Australians, we are not working in vain.