A Vaccine for Financial Instability

Advisors offer remedies as G53 Network launches

With families and nations scrambling to hang on during the economic rollercoaster of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 50 top researchers from around the world are coming together in the G53 Financial Literacy and Personal Finance Research Network. Launched in early December 2021, the new group aims to expedite research and solutions that can help people be better prepared for financial crises, big and small.

The G53 Network brings together the best researchers in the field of financial literacy and personal finance. The group refers to itself as the G53 Network in recognition of the academic code – G53 – that denotes the field of financial literacy. Fittingly, the network launches with 53 founding members from around the globe.

"The pandemic has illuminated the pain of financial distress and people need to develop antibodies not just against the virus, but also against financial fragility," said Annamaria Lusardi, co-founder of the new network and University Professor and Academic Director of the George Washington University's Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC), which will house the new G53 Network.

Speaking to “Advisors Magazine," a number of financial advisors recently addressed the need for financial literacy, explaining why it’s so critical and why groups like The G53 Network are a most welcome addition to the industry.

“Financial literacy helps young adults make better financial decisions early in their career which should also allow them to be more financially sound throughout their lives,” John W. Olson, CFP®, with 2250 Financial Services, Inc of Vienna, Virginia, said. “This should lead to less debt, greater savings and more financially independent Americans over time.”

“As an advisor, I often see clients come in when they are 40 or older and admit financial mistakes and are asking for help to fix them,” noted John W. Olson, CFP®, with 2250 Financial Services, Inc. of Millersville, Maryland. “They are often the biggest advocates for teaching financial literacy to their kids and grandkids. We can teach teenagers and young adults how money works and how to plan financially, then they will not turn into those 40- and 50-year-olds with financial problems.”

Olson said he does his best to provide financial literacy at all levels for children by volunteering in elementary, middle, high schools and colleges. “If I can help plant a seed about avoiding unmanageable debt, saving in retirement vehicles, living within your means, and other basic financial planning principles, that child or young adult is more likely to ask how they can take positive steps in their financial plan instead of digging out of a hole,” he said.

Sometimes, especially in family-run businesses, financial literacy is absorbed and then grows organically.

“As a child, I received valuable lessons from my family’s small businesses, such as how to count the cash drawer and maintain a checkbook, how some people are credit-worthy while others are not, and how to save for the unexpected,” recalled Brenda Bolander, CFP®, CPA/PFS and executive vice president Retirement Investment Advisors, Inc. of Oklahoma City.

“I learned to figure the real cost of items, and not to eat all the profits from the candy counter,” Bolander added. “When our first business suddenly disappeared because a new super-highway opened across town, we learned life goes on, and Dad went back to college.”

Financial decisions can be complicated, Bolander allows, but the basics are the same. “Spend less than you earn, make wise spending choices, save for the future, and take care of your family,” she advised.

“It’s important with that first job, or even younger with an allowance, to learn to prioritize savings (pay yourself first), necessities (shelter, food, clothing, transportation, insurance) and education, giving (to charity and others), and lastly, discretionary items (new phone, eating out or entertainment),” Bolander noted. “Then as adults, they will have established good habits and know how to take care of themselves and their families.”

At The Diamond Group Wealth Advisors of San Ramon, California, working with clients can mean investing the time and energy to support parents of teens and college-aged children to better understand their money and how best to use it.

“The best example I can offer, is the teaching we did with our two daughters when they first got their part-time jobs,” Marilyn Suey, CFP®, AIF® at The Diamond Group said. “Before they received their first paycheck, small as it was, we opened savings, checking and debit card accounts for them,” she explained. “Their checks were deposited electronically by their employer, and they began their journey on how to manage their expenses, what a budget really means, and how to save for special events or in general.”

Suey’s daughters are now ages 21 and 25 and they rarely need help with their daily and monthly expenses.

“They each manage cash flows and are actually much better at it than their parents,” Suey smiled. “Practice makes perfect!”

Whether on the family level, or the grander macro scale, a lot is happening to advance financial literacy.

"The study of financial literacy has been growing exponentially and its importance has been increasingly recognized over the last decade," G53 Network’s Lusardi said. "By enabling the most rigorous research, we seek to address global challenges in financial literacy and personal finance to influence policy change, the work of the private sector, and to empower people to achieve better life outcomes. In other words, this is research with an impact."

A member list and information about the network are available at


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