Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Five Steps program provided in three different formats (video, written narrative, video and narrative) on financial literacy knowledge for retirement planning. This profile focuses on the video and narrative training. The authors investigated similar research questions for other formats, the profiles of which can be found here:
- The study was a randomized controlled trial where adults were randomly assigned to a treatment group where they received financial literacy training, or to the control group where they did not receive any training. Using an online questionnaire, the authors compared financial literacy knowledge between treatment groups and the control group immediately after and eight months following the training.
- The study found that participation in the video and narrative training was significantly related to increases in knowledge of compound interest, risk diversification, retirement savings tax benefits, and employer matches immediately after training.
- This study receives a low evidence rating. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Five Steps; other factors are likely to have contributed.
Five Steps Program
Features of the Intervention
“Five Steps” was a financial education program informed by behavioral research and designed to increase knowledge for basic retirement planning. The program provided training on five different financial literacy topics: compound interest, inflation, risk diversification, retirement savings tax benefits, and employer matches. The trainings were administered online to adults 18 years and older. Participants completed six training modules, over three sessions (two trainings modules per session) that were about two weeks apart. Each of the training modules was approximately three minutes long and shared a story to illustrate the financial principle. The program was delivered through two formats: video and written narrative. The module content was presented as text that the participant had to read in the written narrative format. In the video format, the story was acted out. Of the five financial literacy topics, four of the topics were each taught in one module that was either video or narrative format, and one of the topics was taught in two modules in the same session, one module in video format and one in narrative format. While all participants were trained in all topics, they differed in the combination of topics and formats they received.
Features of the Study
The study was a randomized controlled trial. There were 2,920 individuals recruited from a survey panel called the American Life Panel (ALP), which is designed to be representative of adults in the United States. The individuals were randomly assigned to either the control group or to the treatment group. Within the treatment group, participants were randomly assigned to see the five financial literacy topics in different orders. For the two sessions that would each cover two different topics, each topic was randomly assigned to be either written narrative or video format. As a result, participants were trained in the same five topics as one another, but were trained in a different combination of formats.
An online questionnaire was used to assess financial literacy knowledge outcomes three months before, immediately after, and eight months following the training. The control group did not receive any training but completed the baseline and both follow-up surveys. The authors used a difference-in-difference approach that compared changes in financial knowledge at follow-up between the treatment groups and the control group. The statistical analyses controlled for demographic differences between groups including age, education level, gender, income, credit card debt, and the baseline knowledge score.
Knowledge and skills for financial decision making
- The study found that individuals who participated in the video and narrative training had a significantly higher proportion of correct answers for four of the financial literacy topics (compound interest, risk diversification, retirement savings tax benefits, and employer matches) immediately following the training when compared to the control group.
- Compared to the control group, the study also found that participants in the video and narrative training had significantly greater increases in knowledge from baseline to the first follow-up for four of the financial literacy topics (compound interest, risk diversification, retirement savings tax benefits, and employer matches).
- However, at eight months post-training, the study found no significant differences.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
While the study was a randomized controlled trial, the authors did not provide enough information to assess attrition in the control group. This made the study ineligible to receive a high causal evidence rating. Also, the authors controlled for preexisting differences between groups on age, gender, and baseline knowledge score, but they did not account for differences by race/ethnicity as required for studies reviewed in this topic area. These preexisting differences between the groups—and not the video and narrative training—could explain the observed differences in outcomes.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the study was a randomized controlled trial with unknown attrition and the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Five Steps; other factors are likely to have contributed.