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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Curtis calls for end to financial illiteracy

The president of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, Jane Curtis, has urged members of London’s financial community to unite to improve consumers’ understanding of financial products and services

Jane Curtis

Writing in London business newspaper, City A.M., on Friday, Ms Curtis expressed concern over the inertia shown by many members of the public with regards to their financial future and a lack of personal responsibility for planning for the long term.

“We are increasingly expected to take personal responsibility for planning for the long term,” she said. “If we are to make the right decisions, we need to understand the language of economics, statistics and finance, but as a nation, we still fall short.”

Ms Curtis pointed to the savings gap and a lack of trust in the financial services industry from the public as particular areas of concern, coupled with confusion as to how financial products worked.

A two-pronged approach to addressing the problem is necessary, she said, calling for further simplification of consumer information at point of sale, and embedding financial literacy across the school curriculum, which would ‘have the beneficial effect of disseminating knowledge to the parents, friends and family of children being taught’.

Ms Curtis cited the Institute and Faculty’s findings from its recent report on the teaching of statistics in schools and stated her desire to work with other organisations to agree a new approach for the teaching of financial literacy in the future.

“A more financially literate consumer is more likely to buy the right products at the right time for the right job and to avoid being mis-sold to or failing to make sufficient financial provision for his or her future,” she said.

“It is in the best interests of both the financial services industry and the government to work together on this issue.”