Developing appropriate Financial Literacy (FinLit) materials

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Adult education requires more innovative methodologies relevant to the absorptive capacity and the culture of the participants.   PFTAS has developed practical materials that can be used by MFIs to introduce new financial concepts, effect change in attitude and reinforce financial discipline among its clients.   One of the main materials developed by PFTAS was the flipchart.  Its main utility is being a “conversation-starter”.  Credit officers or promotions staff of MFIs can use this to start a conversation and generate interest in discussing financial issues. In the process, the clients are sharing their ideas, while the staff of the MFIs can share new concepts. The chart primarily uses images that the clients can relate to.  The material is presently being used by 7 MFIs in Cambodia and 4 MFIs in Vietnam.

Another set of materials developed are the “reminders”. These are stationary materials placed in strategic places where clients often go – markets, MFI offices, community centers and the like.  Billboards, streamers and stand-alone posters fall under this category. These materials contain messages that reinforce the topics discussed with the credit officers.  Calendars can also be considered as part of reminder materials.  Other than promote the MFI as an institution, it can be a strong Finlit material that is present in the house of the client the whole year round.

With over indebtedness becoming one of the main concerns of the microfinance industry, a more comprehensive financial education program should be developed and implemented.  It is not a concern of individual MFIs but rather the whole microfinance industry.

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6 Features of Effective Financial Literacy Materials

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Financial literacy is considered as one of the main tools to prevent over-indebtedness that has plagued many microfinance borrowers.  A consistent and effective financial literacy program will ensure that borrowers receiving loan funds will use them for its intended purpose and will not divert it for non-productive purposes.

One main concern however is the perception that financial literacy is an added burden both for the borrower and the loan staff.  On one hand, ineffective financial literacy methodologies are viewed by clients as time consuming, taking away precious time from their income-generating activities. On the other hand, most loan staff has   a notion that doing financial literacy activities reduces their level of performance. It does not contribute to the attainment of their targets and their main functions of generating borrowers and collecting repayments.

When done properly, financial literacy will develop the capacity of the clients to become prudent managers of funds and responsible borrowers.   This in turn will lower the cost of providing services by the MFIs.  Applicable methodologies should be the main consideration in the design of FinLit  materials.  Among the key features that can help make the materials effective are the following:

  1. The AUDIENCE of the sessions should primarily be the current clients, but it should also encourage non-clients as well.  Efforts should be made to reach as much audience as possible.
  2. The materials should use VISUALS to reinforce verbal presentations.  Structured-learning activities (SLAs) are applied in sessions where it is applicable. Texts in the visuals should be minimal so as not to intimidate clients who cannot read.
  3. The MATERIAL should be designed as a “discussion-starter” and should be able to generate interest and participation among the audience.
  4. The loan staff shall be the FACILITATOR in the conduct of the learning sessions.  The sessions shall be interfaced with her/his regular field activities like loan assessment, collection and monitoring activities.
  5. The SESSION should be conducted in the field whenever possible, as often as possible to cover as many topics as possible.  The session should not be made as a requirement for loan release.
  6. The material should be PARTICIPATORY and INTERACTIVE, so that maximum participation from the clients can be expected and encouraged.