As financial literacy experts struggle to find ways to teach people how to better manage their money, one emerging strategy seems to have legs: reminders broadcast over social media.
This is perhaps most clear with young people, who all but live online. The average teen sends 3,339 texts a month, Nielsen reports. More importantly, they actually read the texts that come their way. You can count on it. So why not exploit this obsession by peppering them with practical money reminders?
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In her blog, financial educator Susan Beacham offers 10 text suggestions designed to cajole her kids into thinking more about their finances. Two examples:
- “TTYL about wat ur going to do with ur bday money from gma and gpa. LTS. 2nite at dinner?”
- “Let’s have a FTF to talk about college expenses. Lunch this weekend?”
I’ve sent my teens texts to remind them that their balance is getting low and to check their spending while traveling. It works.
Teaching kids about money is the top concern of affluent parents – even ahead of their kids choosing the right spouse or career, according to a recent Merrill Lynch survey. Most affluent parents begin talking to their kids about money before the age of 12. Texts can help. They are short and to the point. But before you give it a try consider researching text shorthand so you don’t look like a NWAL (nerd without a life).
Texted money reminders aren’t just for kids. For one thing, adults have latched onto to social media in a big way. Folks over 65 are now the fastest growing users of sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, followed closely by those aged 50-64.
A growing body of research suggests that money reminders broadcast from banks or financial planners fall on receptive adult eyes. A study led by Barbara O’Neill at the Rutgers Co-operative Extension found that Twitter and Facebook messages to adults were highly effective in raising awareness about money issues, though only minimally successful in prompting behavior change.
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In the study, financial advisers blasted clients with up to nine messages a day. Sample Tweets:
- Think yourself rich. Savings starts in ur brain, not ur bank account.
- Plug ur spending leaks & save: snacks, soda, lottery etc. $5/ day = $1,825/ yr + interest. Small amts add up.
A sample Facebook message:
- The only sure-fire way to get ahead financially is to spend less than you earn. Counting on a big inheritance or settlement, a wealthy spouse, a game-changing invention, or winning the lottery cannot be guaranteed. Every successful financial plan includes some type of savings.
Most adult recipients said the money reminders were welcome. They didn’t necessarily change their money behavior. But at least they were open to the message. You have to start somewhere.