Many Americans have less than perfect financial literacy skills. This is one of the leading causes that have contributed to the finding of one survey, reporting by CNBC, that 77% of Americans are anxious over money problems. While the answer for many individuals and families may be a bit of education, that isn’t so easily achieved for many. According to InfoDocket.com, studies have shown that up to 63 million US citizens have low numeracy skills. That can be for a wide range of reasons, whether from a simple lack of education during a younger age in money, through to trauma related to financial difficulty, through to learning difficulties and conditions that frustrate education. Whatever the reason, however, more needs to be done – and, indeed, there is a way forward.
Starting Simple – Embracing Tech
Tech has done a lot to help personal financial literacy, according to Fortune.com. As they have rightly highlighted, personal finance apps have made the process of managing finance much easier, have helped to manage budgets, and have also helped to bring people into the world of low-risk investment. Now, technology is starting to provide a path into learning for those people who feel anxious around the subject of money.
There are an increasing number of math apps for adults that seek to bring in financial learning at an understandable, everyday level, before expanding into concepts that are crucial to the overall management of money. Mathway, Sumaze and MathMaster feature scaling systems that gamify the learning process, making it accessible and attuned to individual learning levels – a crucial intervention in ensuring that the learning is appropriate.
These tools are really helpful – but they also need a solid background to make a real impact. According to US News, the issue of numbers and literacy induces such anxiety that 17% of the population has a high degree of ‘math anxiety’. This means that the conversation of numbers alone can cause a real sense of distress.
According to US News, psychologists advocate for the real-world teaching method to bring down that sense of anxiety. Relating math to what it will actually be deployed for in the world today is essential – it helps to push back anxieties over math that can leave it being presented as an esoteric and inaccessible subject. As it happens, this is also a good ‘in’ for financial literacy – the most important math lessons are those that are related to budgeting and money management.
Practice, Practice, Practice
More than anything, it’s essential to actually use these skills and use math in everyday life. This in itself can cause anxiety – insecurities over money management, the accuracy of arithmetic, and related issues can make money management something that induces stress. However, with financial management apps in support, and simple tools like calculators on phones, there’s always something there to double check. In modern psychology, many practitioners advocate for mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy, where little principles are practiced time and time again. Through time, this helps to reinforce the safety of practices, and can help to defeat that sense of anxiety around money and numbers.
Better numerical literacy will help to improve financial literacy. For many Americans, it hasn’t been as simple as just learning – there’s a serious barrier that has prevented that important step. With financial digital tools and an understanding of the reasons as to why it can be difficult to think or talk about numbers, there is hope that current and future generations can build a better understanding of math.