Thursday, April 10, 2008

Financial Literacy... Again???


How about if we stop for a moment to think if it's really "urgent" to know and learn some financial literacy and the incentives we "might" have from learning such an "obscure" thing. We could ask ourselves "What are the benefits I can get from learning something I don't know and don't find interesting"? "Yes, I know I have some money I wouldn't like to spend now but learning about some obscure words I know nothing about?" What's in it for me in spite of noticing that financial markets are seemingly grappling with some problems I don't understand at all such as sub prime, foreclosures, credit crunch, etc, etc?"

After having a brief conversation with fellow Linkedin member
Deborah Nason about the subject of financial literacy, it became clear that those questions are a very sensitive issue... not only for financial markets in a given country but for global financial markets also grappling with similar problems.

Even though financial regulators have been reacting in order to avoid a further "negative effect" (You would ask... What "negative effect?): the decision that financial regulators in the US made to save Bear Stearns from bankruptcy and other measures global financial regulators (mostly in Europe) have taken to avoid also serious problems for other financial institutions... well, you might ask again "So what?" Hmmm... Are you sure?

Let's try to focus on a concrete example about a basic incentive we all could have in learning something about financial literacy... Do we consider ourselves "conscious" shoppers? Do we think (think twice would be better) carefully before using the credit card? Do we know what's behind a
credit card and our responsibility to pay the balance before the grace period ends if we don't want interests to be charged? Would we adopt on the other hand a "macho" attitude, not pay our debts and let Collection Agencies take away from us our stuff to pursue payments?

There is a powerful incentive to learn financial basics in order to understand how credit cards work, Don't you think?

On the other hand, even though many banks consider credit cards an important part of its business, it's my personal belief that those banks haven't had the incentive to teach properly their customers how to use a credit card, therefore, the best thing we should do, is being conscious of our responsibilities and accept the incentive to learn... or let financial regulators putting bits of financial literacy on cereal boxes, milk cartons because those are things people will look at on a daily basis? Would that mean that banks -in fact- fail to teach people understand the advantages and risks -obviously- of using a credit card?

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