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Jamaicans Should Invest More in their Financial Education

Thu 25 Jan, 2018

Rose Miller, grants manager and financial literacy expert at the JN Foundation, speaks to an audience of police personnel during a financial seminar recently. 

With the growing sophistication of financial markets; and a rapidly increasing array of financial products and tools, it has become necessary for persons to invest time in their financial education, grants manager at the JN Foundation, Rose Miller, who leads the Foundation’s Empowerment programme, posits.

"For example," she pointed out, "with governments in many countries pushing to improve financial inclusion, the number of people with bank accounts and access to credit products is rising at a faster pace."

"Furthermore, changes in the pension landscape now places more decision-making responsibility on persons who previously relied solely on their employers or governments for their financial security after retirement," she added.

The situation is compounded, she added, by the low level of financial literacy among Jamaicans.

“Financial education is important for everyone. No matter where you are in life, you need to take time to invest in yourself; and seek to improve your financial IQ,” she stated.  

According to the Standard & Poor’s 2015 Global Financial Literacy Study, only 33 per cent of adult Jamaicans are considered financially literate.

Financial literacy is defined as: The convergence of financial, credit and debt management; and the knowledge that is required to make financially responsible decisions, which are integral to our everyday lives. 

Mrs Miller said that financial literacy is a core skill which all Jamaicans should work towards developing and honing. She explained that it impacts the daily decisions, which an average family makes when trying to balance their budget; purchase a home; fund their children’s education and ensure their personal income at retirement.

The subject also includes understanding how a chequing account works; what using a credit card really means how to avoid debt, and the importance of a good credit score.

The Standards and Poor’s 2015 survey on financial literacy also noted that financial ignorance carries significant costs. The ratings company noted that consumers who fail to understand the concept of compound interest, spend more on transaction fees, run up bigger debts, and incur higher interest rates. They also end up borrowing more and saving less money.

Mrs Miller concurred with S&P's 2015 Global Financial Literacy Study, noting that the potential benefits of financial literacy are manifold. She said financially literate people are more in touch with their finances; and, are, therefore, able to make sound financial decisions, based on knowledge and facts, rather than on hearsay, or a simple hunch.

Rose Miller (left), grants manager and financial literacy expert at the JN Foundation, speaks with Superintendent Hillary Williams during a financial seminar for police personnel recently. Mrs Miller stresses that financial education is paramount to improving financial inclusion. 

“They recognise when they’re getting sound financial advice, as opposed to foolish advice. They are also able to decipher and navigate their way through the myriad of financial information that faces them,” she related.

Mrs Miller further pointed out that financial education is important as it enables you to maximise your income.

“Financially savvy people are also able to invest wisely. They are more likely to diversify risk by spreading funds across several ventures. They’re also able to spot opportunities that will help them to advance themselves financially and attain financial security,” Mrs Miller explained.

She further advised that no matter how much you think you know about the financial world, there is always something else to learn.

“When it comes to financial literacy; you never really complete the learning curve. Therefore, commit time to your financial education every single day, because the area is as wide as the ocean; and is constantly changing. Many persons have grasped some of it; but there’s really so much more information out there that you can access,” she noted.

Standards and Poor noted that only about one in three adults demonstrate a clear understanding of basic financial concepts, and most people are unprepared to deal with rapid changes in the financial landscape.  So how do one improve financial literacy?

Mrs Miller suggests taking advantage of the wealth of information readily available online.

“Youtube is a good resource for information. There are countless videos online that can help you raise your financial IQ. You can also subscribe to online newsletters, such as www.investopedia.com and www.financiallysmartadvice.com, which provides a wealth of information. Also, there are several financial literacy seminars that take place across Jamaica, annually; therefore, look out for those opportunities and take advantage of them,” she related.

The JN financial empowerment officer also recommends that persons read at least four books on the subject, per year.

Some titles she suggests are: The Automatic Millionaire; Raising Financially Confident Kids; Think and Grow Rich; Rich Dad, Poor Dad; The Richest Man in Babylon; The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning and Start Late Finish Rich.

“There are numerous books with easy to understand information out there. Many of these books are available online; therefore, we have no excuse to remain uninformed. And, in the final analysis, there is too much at stake; hence, you should take responsibility for your financial education and avoid the high cost of financial ignorance,” she maintained.