Research & Analysis by William G. Gale
Financial illiteracy is prevalent in the United States, and low levels of financial literacy are associated with poor financial choices and negative economic outcomes. We examine previous work on the effect of financial education on household saving and find mixed results. Workplace financial education seminars positively affect household saving, but the size of this effect varies widely across studies. The effects of other financial education initiatives are less clear, highlighting the need for rigorous econometric evaluation of efforts to improve financial literacy.
Issues addressed in this article include the adequacy of household retirement saving, controlling for lifetime earnings levels and uncertainty, and the examination of the role of Social Security in bolstering financial security. The authors show that reductions in Social Security benefits could have significant deleterious effects on the adequacy of saving, especially among low-income households. They also show that, controlling for lifetime earnings, households with high current earnings tend to save far more adequately than do other households.