Financial literacy in Brazil – do knowledge and self-confidence relate with behavior?

  • Thiago Borges Ramalho Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie
  • Denis Forte Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie
Keywords: Financial literacy, Overconfidence, Financial behaviour, Underconfidence

Abstract

Purpose – People are increasingly responsible for making sound financial decisions to foster their financial satisfaction and well-being, which magnifies the importance of financial literacy, and this concept and measurement is still not yet crystallized in the literature, specifically capturing different behavior perceptions. Moreover, there is not a distinction based on different classifications of behavior, such as over or underconfidence, to understand the relation between literacy and decision process. To fill this gap, this paper aims to investigate whether the financial literacy conceptual model proposed applies similarly to every group independently of their previous self-confidence perception. For this purpose and quality control, OECD (2016) data were used with a final sample of 1,487 Brazilian citizens. Quantitative analysis technique using partial least squares structural equations path modeling and differences between groups using multi-group analysis was applied. In line with general studies, when analyzing the financial literacy usual model for the group as a whole, financial knowledge construct positively influences self-confidence, and both together positively affect financial behavior. However, for individuals with low financial knowledge and low self-confidence, as well as for those with too much or too little confidence, the model did not hold. Therefore, self-confidence perception influences the way financial knowledge is used for financial decisions and should be addressed in financial education and training to be more effective. Design/methodology/approach – To operationalize the variables and test the paper’s hypotheses, the authors used the methodology developed in OECD (2016), based on the research instrument’s Brazilian application adapted from the questionnaire developed in OECD (2015), with data initially used and made available by Garber and Koyama (2016). Based on the recommendations of Hair Jr et al. (2017a, 2017b), the authors used partial least squares modeling PLS-PM (SmartPLS 3.2.6) to estimate the structural models. Findings – Concerning structural relationships, the final model showed knowledge with a positive influence on self-confidence, self-confidence with a positive effect on behavior and knowledge with a positive influence on behavior, both directly and, through its relationship with self-confidence, indirectly. This underscores that, for the total sample, the greater people’s knowledge and self-confidence, the better their behavior. The unexpected absence of attitude in the final model, even allowing for potential measurement problems, brings up an important reflection on the mediating effect that the self-control variable may exert between attitude and behavior. A person may believe that saving for the future is important (attitude) but whether they actually save (behavior) may depend on self-control, which is needed to prevent immediate gains from being prioritized in practice. Research limitations/implications – The findings reported so far concern the study’s total sample. However, as expected from the literature review that provides the basis for the sixth and the most important hypothesis, respondents were found to be heterogeneous in terms of knowledge and self-confidence levels. These differences were evaluated by means of multi-group analyses that indicated that the model does not apply to respondents with low knowledge and low self-confidence and to those who are over- and underconfident. This implies inferring that financial education programs may be of little use if they only address technical knowledge development and fail to consider behavioral aspects such as those related to selfconfidence, as this paper points out, and others. This signals the importance of diagnosing people’s profiles to enable developing solutions capable of minimizing the presence of behavioral biases. This need to be studied further. Practical implications – The results imply inferring that financial education programs may be of little use if they only address technical knowledge development and fail to consider behavioral aspects such as those related to self-confidence, as this paper points out, and others. Models must be reviewed in light of natural diferences of cognition and lead to customized financial education. Social implications – This signals the importance of diagnosing people’s profiles to enable developing solutions capable of minimizing the presence of behavioral biases. Therefore, not only training topics in personal finance but also a deeper education program since the kindergarden must be considered. Originality/value – Its practical contribution is to suggest the development of financial education programs that also take account of the potential presence of behavioral biases, which may prevent the misallocation of (scarce) public- and private-sector funds stemming from a limited focus on developing the population’s actual financial knowledge.

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Published
2019-05-08
Section
Research Paper