Annamaria Lusardi: The first lady of financial literacy

Annamaria Lusardi: The first lady of financial literacy

I think of Annamaria Lusardi as the Annie Sullivan of personal finance. Just like Sullivan taught Helen Keller how to communicate, Lusardi is teaching our country how to communicate—about money.

She’s been on my radar for years, but since being appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, I’ve had the opportunity to cross paths with her more than usual. In fact, in my research for the Council, every person I’ve spoken to has said, “You have to talk to Annamaria Lusardi.”

And so, of course I did. Not only is she helpful and insightful, but she’s truly gifted.

She runs the RAND Financial Literacy Center, a brilliant think-tank-like center that develops and tests innovative ways to truly improve folks’ financial decisions. (Oh, to be a fly on the wall!)

On top of that, she’s an economics professor at Dartmouth and has consulted on major financial literacy initiatives, including FINRA’s 2009 Financial Capability Study, which surveyed more than 28,000 people to find out what Americans know—and don’t know—about personal finance. The results are meant to help the public, policymakers, and researchers understand what’s needed to improve. If you’re anything like me, clicking that link is pure entertainment, especially in seeing how your state rates.

And I’m enthralled by her most recent project: She’s chair of the committee that’s designing the first-ever financial literacy portion of the next PISA exam, to be administered to about 500,000 15-year-olds around the world. The next exam isn’t until 2012, and details are up in the air, but this test could become a crucial measure of global financial literacy. (I discussed it recently on The Takeaway.)

One question I wished I’d asked her on the phone: When does she sleep???

If you’d like to follow the wonderful work she’s doing, you can check out her blog.

Who’s your personal finance hero?

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