World Bank data shows that only 64 percent of people in Colombia plan their expenditures only one month in advance – or, worse still, have no plan at all for calculating the amount of money they will spend.
In June 2017, the Government of Colombia launched the National Economic and Financial Education Strategy (ENEEF), which aims to improve the financial knowledge of people at various stages of life. The government's objective is to ensure that such training is available to all Colombians and that it paves the way for higher growth, improved abilities, and greater confidence with respect to the use of personal economic resources, businesses, household finances and protection against fraud.
The strategy, for which the World Bank provided technical support, takes into account both the characteristics of the country and the good practices outlined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It focuses on five segments of the population: people enrolled in formal education (i.e., children and youth); the population in active employment; vulnerable groups; micro-entrepreneurs; and those who are retired or elderly. It will also include a system for evaluating the program’s impact and for monitoring the targets that have been set.
The Finance Minister, Mauricio Cárdenas, has stated that the strategy will enable Colombians to make more informed decisions regarding the management of their finances and to protect themselves against fraud and other risks, thus also promoting economic stability in the country.
Under this initiative, the first-ever government website geared to economic and financial education (http://www.pesospensados.gov.co/) has been made available to the public. The site allows citizens to obtain information and to learn about such topics as budgeting, saving, borrowing, insurance, pensions, investments, financial services, risk protection and fraud prevention. The content and exercises on the website have been adapted and enriched by the experiences of the different bodies working in this area, such as the Superintendencia Financiera de Colombia (the Financial Superintendency of Colombia), the Fondo de Garantías de Instituciones Financieras Fogafin (the Financial Institutions Guarantee Fund), the Banco de la República (the central bank), the Banca de las Oportunidades, and Asobancaria (the national banking association).
“A national economic and financial education strategy will help guide and direct the supply of such programs to different groups in society. Economic growth in a country also requires that individuals know how to manage their personal finances so that they can benefit from a more developed financial system,” said Issam Abousleiman, the World Bank's Country Manager for Colombia.
Benefits for young people and adults
School students can be particularly vulnerable when making their first financial decisions. It is therefore a good idea to begin providing engaging and practical instruction in financial concepts to young people at the classroom stage through innovative teaching strategies. The earlier young people develop basic financial skills, the more likely they are to become adults who make responsible financial decisions.
Economic and financial strategies are not only essential in childhood, however. In adulthood, as well, they allow people to improve their quality of life based on the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to effectively manage their finances, better manage risks and more fully understand the growing variety of financial products and services.
This strategy is a model that Colombia can share with other countries in the region – but it must also take great care in planning its structure and execution. That will ensure that improved economic and financial education serves as a bridge for reducing poverty and inequality in the country.