For Bank of America, cultivating better money habits at the individual level is the first step toward ensuring a stable, healthy economy. In fact, according to a survey entitled “Bridging the Gap” that Bank of America conducted last year with Harris Interactive, 89% of Americans believe that better management of their personal finances would go a long way toward bolstering the U.S. economy.
But ensuring that end goal means giving people the right education and proper tools for financial planning. For Bank of America, that means going right down to the basics and making things as simple as possible for everyday Americans.
A year ago, the firm teamed up with the Khan Academy, a pioneer in online education, to create Better Money Habits, (www.bettermoneyhabits.com), an online financial education and literacy platform aimed at all individual investors across the country. The “brand- and consumer-agnostic” site is free and available to everyone, says Ann-Tyler Connell, Bank of America’s senior vice president of communications, and is aimed at people of all ages.
“Our goal is to strengthen the connection between financial knowledge and everyday behavior by arming people with the information and tools they need to live better financial lives,” Connell says. “In talking with our customers, we found that a lot of people don’t know where to start with financial education, or might be intimidated to admit they don’t know all the basics. That’s why we partnered with Khan Academy to take a simple, plain-spoken approach to some of these complex topics.”
Better Money Habits features short videos with easy-to-grasp information on key topics. Videos and tools on the site are narrated and animated in straightforward, conversational language, providing lessons on everything from how to set a budget and stick to it; how a mortgage works and how to build and maintain good credit, and much more. The video format also allows people to stop, rewind and replay as many times as they want to, Connell says, “in the privacy of their own home where they are most comfortable. There is already a vast library of videos, and we add more on a regular basis.”
In the year since its launch, 3.2 million people have visited the site. Almost all of the videos have been given a rating of at least four out of five stars, as determined by viewers in terms of how helpful they are, Connell says, and the three most popular video topics, which have all received more than 1.5 million views, include credit, interest and debt.
Financial advisors can share the site with clients to remind them of the basics of money management, but more importantly, they can use the site as a kind of barometer to find out which videos are most popular and narrow down the topics that are top-of-mind for most people, Connell says.
By having an understanding of what the general public is looking up, advisors can better anticipate what their clients are most interested in and where they need the most guidance – even if they aren’t asking.
“Our demographic data tells us that our content is resonating well with families looking for useful and practical advice,” Connell says. “More than half of our visitors are parents with children under 18. And, the highest percentage of visitors is between ages 40 and 69. “
According to Connell, financial education has historically been a difficult area to navigate. It is, however, crucial that a greater number of Americans come up to speed on even the basics, so as firms continue to figure out ways in which they can reach out to the masses, Bank of America “recognized the need for a fresh approach,” she says, which is what led to the partnership with the Khan Academy.
Founded by educator/Harvard and MIT-grad Salman Khan in 2006 with the aim of creating a global classroom that anyone, anywhere can access in order to benefit from a world-class instruction, the hugely popular Khan Academy is now a household name and rapidly becoming an integral feature in classrooms and homes in the U.S. and around the world.
“The Khan Academy has a proven history of tackling difficult subjects and making them approachable and easy to understand,” Connell says. “BetterMoneyHabits.com takes that same approach and applies it to financial education, allowing consumers to learn at their own pace, from a teaching style that is casual and commercial-free.”
This innovative approach, coupled with Bank of America’s vast reach, has made the program a powerful one in its first year, she says, and “Bank of America and Khan Academy recognize that no matter where you are starting from, the best way to improve long-term financial success is by changing habits slowly, step by step.”