Celebrating Financial Literacy

Marian Daniells

About a year ago, Racked wrote about the “dubious, brand-led surge of fake national holidays.” Today, for example, is Smoke and Mirrors Day. Tomorrow is Take a Walk in the Park Day. Thursday is Clam on the Half Shell Day.

Why? A lot of them were marketing ploys. IHOP gets a ton of business in National Pancake Day. And Dunkin’ Donuts co-opted National Coffee Day.

But some are genuine and designed to raise awareness, not just business. Dunkin’ Donuts also celebrates National Donut Day the first Friday of June each year. The holiday was originally established in 1938 by the Chicago Salvation Army to honor women who served donuts to soldiers during World War I.

Sometimes, simply by putting a name on something, we (a collective we that mostly includes marketing professionals and social scientists) raise social awareness. Though the history of naming hurricanes has a slightly sexist history, putting a name to a cyclone had the effect of raising social awareness. And a few years ago, the National Weather Service started naming storms, as well.

All this to draw attention to April. April is Financial Literacy Month – a holiday or observance of which I am in full support. My fellow millennials and I are graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. Yet, few understand the basics of managing finances, credit, building a nest egg when you’re 23 and not 35, and living below one’s means.

Financial literacy needs a grassroots marketing push. For some unknown reason, preceding generations have labeled money talk taboo. They didn’t have to talk about money; they had pensions. But nowadays, education and financial preparedness are key.

Americans are—literally—failing at financial literacy. Women, in particular. This is especially worrying because women tend to make less than and live longer than men, and thus need to more diligently prepare.

Some companies are trying to close the literacy gap. Robo-adviser SheCapital aims to carve out a niche in the increasingly crowded robo-advice market by appealing to female investors who in the past have been skeptical of the financial service industry. Sallie Krawcheck, chairwoman of Pax Ellevate Management and Ellevate Network also launched a robo-adviser targeted to women, Ellevest. And WorthFM, a new investing platform slated to launch this year, offers three accounts: Savings, Investing, and Retirement.

Whether you’re a woman or not, financial literacy is important, and one marketing-driven holiday worth celebrating. In fact, you can celebrate each and every day in April, because Financial Literacy Month not only draws attention to the problem, but outlines 30 steps (one for each day of April) towards financial wellness.