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Improving Millennials' Financial Literacy with Mobile Technology

Jason Alderman | 5/5/2015, 11:30 p.m.
The 2015 Financial Literacy Summit 2015, (http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/summit2015/) held April 15 in Chicago and co-hosted by Visa Inc. and the Federal ...

The 2015 Financial Literacy Summit 2015, (http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/summit2015/) held April 15 in Chicago and co-hosted by Visa Inc. and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, focused on how mobile technology might improve millennials' learning, savings and investing behavior in the future.

A recent FICO study said millennials, the demographic born between 1980 and 2000, not only represent the largest group of individuals using mobile banking applications, but also the biggest cohort partaking in Internet browsing, emailing, searching, social networking and news consumption on a smartphone or tablet, bypassing desktop machines entirely. By comparison, only 5 percent of 35-54 year-olds and 3 percent of those 55 years and older are using mobile devices exclusively.

The Summit audience heard particularly eye-opening insights from a panel on how early education and mobile technology applications can help build future generations' financial literacy. While online gaming (http://practicalmoneyskills.com/games/) is showing particular success in training grade- and high-school age students in financial fundamentals, panelists suggested that the broader solution will depend on national educational policy and a broader understanding about young adults and their financial needs.

Amando M. Tetangco, Jr., governor of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the central bank of the Philippines, told the audience that young Filipino adults are "struggling more than their older counterpart groups with regard to budgeting" and retirement planning, but he said he is still optimistic: "I believe there are certain characteristics of millenials that provide opportunities to build [their financial capabilities]. They have a desire for change." Such change, he said, should be driven by data and policy should be made personal and tied to technology solutions embraced by younger citizens.

Panelist Jason Young, CEO and Co-Founder of MindBlown Labs, an Oakland, California-based software developer behind the Thrive 'n' Shine personal finance game app for teens and young adults, said mobile technology will bridge the gap between financial literacy and a lifetime of successful financial decision making. "Eighty to 90 percent of U.S. teens have smart devices. That's huge, but the important thing to understand is that these aren't just things they use. They're a way of life."

Developing a stronger connection between financial literacy education and mobile technology could be beneficial for global educators and policymakers trying to improve spending, saving and investing knowledge for future generations. In January, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a first-time global financial literacy study (http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results-volume-vi.htm) that revealed that U.S. students ranked between eighth and twelfth place among all 18 participating countries in overall literacy skills.

Bottom line: Focusing on the way under-35 consumers use smartphones and tablets might provide a way for educators, financial services companies and policymakers to narrow the financial literacy gap.