Washington, D.C.—The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation announced today it awarded 25 grants in 2007 totaling $6,379,849 for new educational programs and research projects intended to improve the quality and accessibility of financial information to the public. The FINRA Investor Education Foundation also spent more than $3.1 million on direct programming in 2007 and earmarked an additional $5.5 million to support programs in 2008.
"We are dedicated to funding grant programs that give the public unbiased financial information and the tools they need to help them achieve financial success," said Mary L. Schapiro, Chairman of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, who also serves as Chief Executive Officer of FINRA. "By extending our reach through new and established channels—from the Internet to local libraries—we hope to improve the financial well-being of all Americans."
Since the FINRA Foundation's inception in May 2004, it has approved more than $28 million in financial education and investor protection initiatives through a combination of grants and targeted projects. Some highlights of the 2007 FINRA Foundation programs and research projects include:
- SmartInvesting@yourlibrary, which is the FINRA Foundation's community-based grant program to build the capacity of U.S. public libraries to provide financial education resources and services to library patrons. The program is jointly administered with the American Library Association and recently awarded 13 grants, totaling more than $853,000, to public libraries and library networks across the country.
- The Military Financial Education Program, which was launched in 2006 and since then has conducted educational seminars at more than 35 military installations, reaching more than 8,000 service members and their families. In addition, SaveAndInvest.org—an online resource center that provides a centralized, trusted source for unbiased information on saving and investing—averages more than 25,000 unique visits every month. In 2007, the FINRA Foundation had 22 military financial education forums in sixteen locations, including California, Georgia, Hawaii and Virginia, as well as overseas in Italy and Spain. Three of these events—at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center and the VA Medical Center in Augusta, GA—expanded the Foundation's ongoing efforts to deliver information and resources to wounded and severely injured servicemembers. One significant achievement this year was the successful launch of BrightScore in October. BrightScore®, an online credit management tool, is now being offered free of charge to active duty military personnel and their spouses to help them manage their credit wisely. Already over 9500 military personnel and their spouses have used BrightScore. A detailed demonstration of the tool is available online www.SaveAndInvest.org - Home - Get a Free Credit Report and Analysis.
- Senior Fraud Risk Survey, which was released in September and gave greater insight into the world of investment fraud targeting seniors. The research showed as many as seven out of 10 older investors do not check the registration status of the financial professionals they deal with, although nearly half (46 percent) say they are more likely to listen to a professional who claims a specific accreditation to advise them on financial issues. The new study also shows that three times as many known investment fraud victims (21 percent) have attended a free lunch investment seminar as a national sample of investors aged 55-64 (seven percent).
- Through the Investor Protection Campaign for Older Americans, the FINRA Foundation will attempt to educate older investors about their vulnerability to investment scams and arm them with techniques to recognize and fend off persuasion techniques that are present in virtually every financial scam. The project will include a public awareness campaign conducted through newspapers, television, radio, direct mail and investor forums as well as in-person training sessions with small groups of investors. The Foundation will launch pilot programs in Washington state and Florida in 2008.
- The FINRA Foundation also developed senior-oriented pages for its Save And Invest Web site - www.SaveAndInvest.org/55plus - which contain an array of financial education material both from FINRA and other organizations with expertise in the senior fraud-fighting arena.
In addition to the targeted financial education projects in 2007, the FINRA Foundation approved the following grants:
- AFSCME Training and Education Institute
Investor Education for Working Families - Grant Amount: $692,180
This project will develop a comprehensive financial education program for AFSCME's 1.4 million members. Partnering with Better Investing, this project will use an on-line, self-paced financial education curriculum along with DVDs, printed materials, and a strong outreach program.
- American Public Media (APM)
Investor Education Reporting for the Underserved on Marketplace® - Grant Amount: $711,153
In follow-up to an earlier Foundation grant, APM will continue to provide financial education reporting on the popular Marketplace® suite of radio programs on National Public Radio and American Forces Radio Network, including Marketplace®, Marketplace Morning Report®, and Marketplace Money®. In addition, APM will produce a special series focusing on the financial education needs of military families.
- The ASPIRA Association (ASPIRA)
Increasing Hispanic Investors through Investments Education and Investing Career Awareness - Grant Amount: $646,507
ASPIRA is developing a comprehensive financial education program for the Latino community, including a Web-based and downloadable bilingual curriculum to be disseminated through a national train-the-trainer program. The project also includes a partnership with HITN-TV to produce a series of public service announcements and talk shows on the topics of saving and investing.
- Community Television Foundation of South Florida
Get Your Finances Ready for Retirement - Grant Amount: $478,700
In partnership with the Nightly Business Report and US News & World Report, Community TV of South Florida is producing television reports and specials, along with monthly companion print articles, to help new retirees and those approaching retirement understand financial issues related to retirement decumulation.
- Education and Research Foundation of The Metropolitan New York Better Business Bureau Foundation
Get More Money Now Reprint - Grant Amount: $68,000
Metro New York BBB Foundation will update and distribute 155,000 additional copies of Better Business Bureau's Get More Money Now brochure and Web site (www.bbbmoneynow.org), produced with a 2004 FINRA Foundation grant, in order to meet continued high demand.
- eXtension Foundation
Online Investment Education for Farm Households - Grant Amount: $449,505
eXtension Foundation is adapting its award-winning curriculum - Investing for Your Future - to serve the financial education needs of farm households in the United States through an interactive, Web-based learning environment. The project includes market research to tailor the program for maximum reach and effectiveness, and employs the resources and expertise of the Cooperative Extension Service and its 3,000+ county offices to design, promote, evaluate, and sustain the program.
- Florida State University
The Development of Superior Personal Investing Performance - Grant Amount: $341,511
Florida State researchers are addressing the question, 'What are those households that accumulate wealth doing, in terms of investment related activities, that is different from those households that accumulate little wealth?' through a study that identifies investment related activities associated with high versus low household wealth accumulation.
- Learning Point Associates
A National Evaluation of the Stock Market Game on Students' Academic Achievement in Mathematics and Investment Knowledge - Grant Amount: $484,782
Learning Point Associates is analyzing how The Stock Market Game affects student achievement in investment knowledge and mathematics. This project will survey students to understand their satisfaction with the program. It also will survey teachers to examine how program implementation relates to teachers' investment practices.
- National Council on Economic Education (NCEE)
Learning, Earning and Investing: The Game - Grant Amount: $825,375
NCEE will expand the reach and appeal of one of the most frequently used financial literacy curricula for middle and high school students through development of a companion computer game with 15 interactive segments, a dedicated Web site and a teacher resource guide. The organization will leverage its resources, reputation and expertise (including its national network of affiliated State Councils) to design, promote, evaluate and sustain the program.
- North Carolina State University
Using Nonfinancial Measures to Assess the Risk of Fraudulent Financial Reporting and Improve Retail Investor Protection - Grant Amount: $330,980
NC State University is creating a Web-based tool to help investors, auditors and regulators detect fraud in financial statements by comparing financial information with nonfinancial data. The validity of the Web-based tool and its uses will be evaluated through empirical analyses.
- North Carolina State University
Evaluating Employer-provided Financial Education Programs for Pre-retirees - Grant Amount: $386,763
Researchers from NC State University will collaborate with human resources managers to evaluate the extent to which workplace education programs improve employees' ability to understand their options relating to timing of retirement, the age at which to begin Social Security and pension benefits, Medicare, annuitization, and other matters pertaining to asset management in retirement. The project will result in practical papers, research papers, and a template for helping employers evaluate their pre-retirement programs.
- Princeton University
Pitfalls of Investor Decision-Making in the Social Interaction Context - Grant Amount: $111,019
Princeton University will examine the impact of social interactions with financial professionals on investor decision-making. The grant will study how financial professionals may exert influence on investors by (1) using the trappings of status and authority, especially professional designations, to gain investors' trust; (2) eliciting manic exuberance from investors by providing too much information too fast; and (3) placing social pressure on investors. The grant also will test the effectiveness of methods to reduce the influence of these biases.
The FINRA Investor Education Foundation supports innovative research and educational projects that give underserved Americans the knowledge, skills and tools necessary for financial success throughout life. To date, the FINRA Foundation has approved $14.6 million in grants and an additional $14 million in direct education programming. For details about grant programs and other FINRA Foundation initiatives, visit www.finrafoundation.org.
FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. Created in 2007 through the consolidation of NASD and NYSE Member Regulation, FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services. FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business - from registering and educating all industry participants to examining securities firms; writing and enforcing rules and the federal securities laws; informing and educating the investing public; providing trade reporting and other industry utilities, and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and registered firms. For more information, please visit our Web site at www.finra.org.