Italy’s Newest Museum: Dante, Moliere and…Personal Finance

The Museum of Saving opened its doors in Turin, Italy last month, with a mission to bring personal finance to life. Financial education is being taken seriously around the world.

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Next time you’re in Italy, don’t miss the fabulous museums at the Vatican, the Gallery Borghese, the Guggenheim Collection or… the Museum of Saving. The what?

Yes, a country that already had some 3,500 museums with 40% of the world’s art and 54 million objects on display just opened another cultural repository—this one in homage to the art of personal finance. The Museum of Saving opened last month in Turin, with the objective of spreading the word about the global need for financial education.

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It seems unlikely that many tourists will skip the Holy Shroud in favor of a museum about good and bad money habits. But that this museum even exists testifies to the global and growing nature of the financial literacy movement. The esteemed Annamaria Lusardi, a financial education pioneer and professor of economics and accountancy at George Washington School of Business, is an adviser to the museum. She writes in her blog:

“This is a big idea for financial education and a fantastic one… Many Italians and tourists visit Italian museums every day to appreciate and learn about art throughout centuries of history. Now they can do the same to learn about economics and the workings of money and finance throughout the centuries, starting from the advent of money and continuing to the collapse of Lehman Brothers. And they can do so in a very engaging way.”

Is it really a big idea? I’m not so sure. Check out the museum website here, and be sure to click on the icon for English if you haven’t mastered the native tongue. Lusardi and company are trying hard to make personal finance interesting. In one room, you get a crash course in the 2,700-year history of currency. In another, virtual Dante, Moliere, Shakespeare and Hemmingway describe their relationships with money, offering insights into the changing nature of the global economy. There are money-related clips from famous movies and games that bring personal finance to life. Lusardi writes:

“Throughout the museum, you can hear interviews with experts and economists. At the moment, most of them are Italian (but more are to come) and feature Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank; Ignazio Visco, the Governor of the Italian Central Bank; and also academics who have studied money, finance, and financial literacy. On the walls, you can read the phrases of famous writers and investors, including Warren Buffett, about saving, investing, and the economy.”

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Every movement needs an anchor and perhaps financial literacy has found one in Turin, where there is now a dedicated institution recording the effort to raise the financial I.Q. of people around the world. If nothing else, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is a global issue that is getting much needed attention.