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Filene survey Online investor education changes behavior
MADISON, Wis. (4/2/12)--A new research report from Filene Research Institute indicates that online education is an effective means of improving financial literacy among surveyed credit union employees--and could produce similar results with credit union members.

"Investor Education for Credit Union Employees: Survey Results for Wisconsin" analyzes research conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in cooperation with the Wisconsin Credit Union League. Researchers administered a series of surveys followed by financial education modules to hundreds of employees at Wisconsin credit unions.

Researchers wanted to know whether employees would gain knowledge and improve their financial behavior after taking part in a nine-part online education series--covering topics such as "Basics of Investing," "Investing in Mutual Funds" and "Working with Financial Advisers."

Credit union employees scores on interest and credit responses rose 3% to 4%  after taking part in the series. Scores improved 11% for knowledge of investing for retirement, 21% for knowledge of stocks and bonds and 25% for knowledge of investor information available online.

Following the courses, 8% of the participants reported opening an individual retirement account, 6% reported establishing a written budget, and 5% each reported drafting a written financial plan and saving for three months of expenses.

The data may be somewhat skewed because of the high proportion of married women that took part in the study.

If credit union employees mirror ordinary members, the research supports the idea that online education can lead to increased financial knowledge and better habits, according to author J. Michael Collins, PhD, assistant professor and director of the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin.

"That's promising in a cultural environment that increasingly prizes on-demand information access and in which members may be less inclined to sit through traditional financial education," Collins writes. "Granted, the time-intensive modules used in this research were given to users with some financial expertise, but if they can learn and show positive behavior changes, how much more effective might similar education be for the average member?"
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