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By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®
Martie Gillen, Ph.D., MBA, AFC®, CFLE

Personal finance research informs high-quality financial education briefings, publications, and one-on-one financial counseling sessions with clients. Below are findings and implications for practice from three recent studies:

Financial Education

Kaiser et al. studied the effects of financial education on the subsequent financial practices of learners through a rigorous meta-analysis (i.e., a study of previous research) of 76 randomized experiments with a total sample size of over 160,000. Results indicated that financial education programs, on average, have positive causal treatment effects on financial knowledge and downstream financial behaviors. The researchers also did not find evidence of a dramatic decay in financial knowledge up to six months later.

Implications: Financial educators should be pleased that financial education interventions have sizeable effects on both financial knowledge and behaviors. The findings of this study validate the work that they do. The researchers also documented the cost-effectiveness of many financial education interventions and recommended further study of long-range program impacts.

Financial Capability

A study by Chen et al. explored the relationship between payday loan use (PLU) and financial well-being. Using a nationally representative sample, the researchers found mixed and inconclusive results: while PLU can be harmful to daily money management (e.g., paying bills and making ends meet), it also serves as a cash flow alternative on which households rely to cope with emergencies.

Implications: Study results support previous findings that PLU contributes to difficulties paying mortgage and rent payments and is associated with long-term impacts; e.g., an increased likelihood of accruing debt and bankruptcy. PLU also showed a small positive effect (e.g., having emergency funds) which suggests that access to payday loans may provide people with some assurance that they can cope with unexpected financial shocks.

Financial Well-Being

This study by Harter and Harter investigated the link between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and adult financial well-being. Their findings indicated that, at various income levels, financial stress in adulthood is related to childhood trauma, which was self-reported by respondents by recalling what happened in their childhood. Financial stress was measured by food security and housing security. For more information about food security in military families check out our Food Security in Focus Collection.

Implications: ACEs are an important “lens” for financial practitioners to use with their clients. Results of this study also indicate a need for policies and practices that prevent or reduce the occurrence of ACEs and promote resilience. As adults suffer trauma and stress, it is important to provide education about healthy coping mechanisms to reduce exposure to ACEs for their children.


Kaiser, T., Lusardi, A., Menkhoff, L., & Urban, C. (2022). Financial education affects financial knowledge and downstream behaviors. Journal of Financial Economics, 145(2), Part A, 255-272

Chen, Z., Friedline, T., & Lemieux, C.M. (2022). A national examination on payday loan use and financial well-being: A propensity score matching approach. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 43, 678-689 

Harter, C.L. & Harter, J.F.R.(2022). The link between childhood experiences and financial security in adulthood. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 43, 832-842

Photo by Mohammad Danish from Pexels