Conference Aims to Boost Financial Literacy in Oregon
By Lindsay Frankel
In an effort to improve financial literacy outcomes for Oregon residents, nonprofit Financial Beginnings hosted a conference for leaders and educators involved with financial education efforts in their communities.
Past conferences have proven successful at bringing financial education opportunities to Oregonians; more than 90 percent of the participants in the 2017 conference said the conference inspired them to provide financial literacy resources to the populations they served.
Financial literacy rates in Oregon are dropping, according to the 2018 National Financial Capability Study conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. 48 percent of Oregonians don’t have an emergency fund, while 19 percent are spending more than they earn.
And that seems to be a result of poor financial literacy skills among residents. On a five-question financial literacy test, 62 percent of participants weren’t able to answer more than three of the questions correctly.
Inadequate financial literacy skills paired with weak financial resources in the state leave residents vulnerable to making poor financial choices. While the Oregon Department of Education mandates that students graduate with an understanding of finances, students aren’t assessed on meeting these goals, nor are teachers provided with adequate curriculum. The impact of this is that few schools are able to teach the financial literacy skills that students need to be successful in their adult lives.
Community-based organizations and government agencies also lack the resources to be able to establish programs that teach adults about personal finance. That leaves the responsibility to Oregon residents to educate themselves, but many people may be unaware that they lack the skills to navigate their financial lives.
The impact of these deficiencies is far reaching with regards to the financial health of Oregonians. Those who receive financial education are more likely to put money aside for a rainy day, establish a credit history, avoid financial scams, and have access to lending options. On the other hand, people without an education background in personal finance are more likely to lack access to low-interest credit and to make poor financial decisions, such as borrowing Oregon payday loans and title loans.
These risky methods of borrowing contribute to indebtedness and make it difficult for borrowers to improve their financial situations. Payday loans carry average annual percentage rates reaching nearly 400 percent, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Yet many borrowers with poor financial literacy skills are unable to understand the true cost of using these products, which leads to an insurmountable cycle of debt, especially for financially vulnerable populations.
The 2019 Financial Literacy Conference aimed to fill in the gap in available resources by providing participants with the chance to learn about state efforts, increase their own knowledge of personal finance, and be empowered to share their understanding with the community.