Thanks to our colleagues: More financial knowledge to the people!
When Olga Balakina, former postdoc at Lund University and now an Assistant Professor at Aarhus University, arrived to Sweden she realized that getting a mortgage, deciding on her pension and saving for the future required a lot of knowledge about the Swedish financial system that she did not have, despite holding a PhD in finance.
Discussing the problem over lunch, Olga and her colleagues realized that making good financial decisions is as much about knowing the practical details as it is about knowing the right theory. Eventually these lunch conversations led her and other researcher at LUSEM to develop a course in personal finance that tries to explain how to save for retirement, how to invest in the stock market and how to buy a house in Sweden. The course is targeted to immigrants who may find it difficult to navigate the Swedish financial system, but is open and suitable for everyone.
Collaboration with Finansinspektionen
The course is is called En enkel kurs i finans (a simple course in finance), and it is available free of charge at www.finanskurs.se for anyone interested. The course was developed in collaboration with Finansinspektionen.
”We started with a physical version of this course for newly arrived immigrants who studied at the so called ’Korta vägen’ at Folkuniversitet before the pandemic,” says Agneta Kruse, Senior lecturer in Economics at LUSEM.
After the course had been run at Folkuniversitetet, the researchers contacted Finansinspektionen and told them about the project. The authority found the course interesting and wanted to help make it available online.
”Not everyone knows that one of Finansinspektionen’s missions is to give financial education,” says Anders Vilhelmsson, Associate professor in Economics at LUSEM.
No resources have come from Lund University and the work has been done mostly during sparetime. But the researchers don’t seem very concerned about this:
”The border between sparetime and work is kind of fluid in our work,” Anders says. ”We like to think about this as a good example of the third task.”
Personal experience idea
The idea emerged, as shown above, from Olga’s own experience:
”I’m from Russia and found the system in Sweden rather different…I realized that I needed to learn more in order to handle my pension, investments, and borrowing, despite my PhD in Finance! For example, theoretically and academically I knew everything about mortgages and pensions but I didn’t know the institutional background in Sweden and therefore I wasn’t able to figure out right away what was the best choice for me. And I found out from talking to people that they face similar problems, especially immigrants,” Olga explains.
”And not only immigrants,” Claes Bäckman, former postdoc at Lund University and now an Assistant Professor at Aarhus University, adds. ”A common comment we hear from Swedish people is that ’this information sounds very useful, I would like to take this course myself!'”.
From saving to pension
The course is divided into four parts; basics of financial literacy, how to buy a house, how to save for your pension, and how to invest money, for example, in the stock market. Every part has instructive videos on each subject where Erik Wengström, Claes Bäckman, Agneta Kruse, and Anders Vilhelmsson, talk about one topic. Every part also includes a list of important words with explanations, and a list of questions that you can take with you, for example, to a bank to research your options for a mortgage loan.
”We decided to focus on financial institution set-up in Sweden and ask questions like ’How do these institutions work?’ We want people to make a better-informed choice, and potentially avoid financial mistakes. We are not telling people what to do, instead, we give them information to help them to make decisions based on their own situation and preferences,” Olga says.
”We also want people to ask the right questions, so we made a list of questions you can ask, for example when you are deciding what fund you should invest in,” Claes adds.
Finally, since two of you now work and live in Denmark (Olga and Claes), will there be a similar course in Denmark soon?
”Well then we need to figure out how everything works in Denmark! We would like to have a course like this in Denmark, but we are not planning to develop one right now. But I think the same principles about how important the practical details are would apply in Denmark and in many other countries,” Claes says.