SEC Study Reports that Many Retail Investors Are Financially Illiterate

According to the Study Regarding Financial Literacy Among Investors, which was recently released by the SEC, many US retail investors are confused or don’t know much about making informed financial choices and can be considered financially illiterate. The study, which was created to fulfill the Dodd Frank Act’s section 917, is a representation of information distilled by SEC staff from retail investors, focus groups, public comments, quantitative research, and FLEC, which is comprised of 22 federal entities and was set up under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003’s Title V to better financial literacy in this country. The Commission also looked to the Library of Congress to review other studies on this subject.

Reportedly, regardless of whether the information came from, the general findings were the same: that many investors lacked an understanding of the most basic financial ideas, including the difference between bonds and stocks, did not know a lot about investment costs or their effect on investment returns, and were challenged when it came to knowing much about liquidity or credit risks. Women, elderly seniors, African-Americans, Hispanics, and the uneducated seemed to generally have less knowledge about investment than did members of the general population.

Also, many investors appeared to have a difficult time reading their portfolio account descriptions and trade confirmations. Many of them appeared confused about fees. One focus group participant even zeroed in on how, when given too much information, the “more that is disclosed” the less likely investors were to pay attention.

Also, per the study:
• Investors would rather get investment disclosures first before buying an investment service or product or getting involved with a financial intermediary.

• Investors do factor disciplinary history, fees, strategy for investments, and conflicts of interest when considering financial intermediaries.

• They prefer summaries with key data about their investments in investment product disclosures. They like disclosures that are concise, clear, easy to understand, and employ tables, bullet points, graphs, or charts.

• They also like “layered” disclosure, where they are given key information and can then access more details online or via e-mail or mail.

You can find out about other study findings by clicking on the link below.

From assessing commenter feedback, SEC staff have now identified which private and public investor educations efforts are the most useful to the audience they are targeting. Also, OIEA and other FLEC participants intend to work together to develop programs that zero in on specific groups, such as military members, young investors, investment trustees, lump sum payout recipients, and underserved populations. They will create programs that emphasize how key it is to perform investment professional background checks, market as the main federal government resource for information about investing, and make sure people become aware of the costs and fees associated with investing.

Securities Fraud
When an investor comes to a financial professional without a lot of investment knowledge of experience, it is the representative’s responsibility to make sure that the client knows about and understands the risks and costs involved before they invest and doesn’t get into anything that would be unsuitable or risky for their goals or finances. Unfortunately, there are brokers and investment advisers that take advantage of investor and their lack of knowledge in order to make a profit. When securities fraud happens it is the investor that suffers.

Study Regarding Financial Literacy Among Investors (PDF)

SEC Says Retail Investors Are Clueless About Stocks, Minyanville’s Wall Street, August 31, 2012

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At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP, we help investor recoup losses sustained because of securities fraud.