Filling the Financial Literacy Gap

Quick quiz: What proportion of Americans say that money is their top source of stress?

  1. One-eighth
  2. One-quarter
  3. One-half
  4. Three-quarters

The answer, according to a recent survey, is 4 – putting financial worries ahead of politics, work, and family for most respondents. Yet most of these same people are optimistic about their financial future, with only the slimmest sliver saying they expect to be worse off a year from now.

The difference between today’s fears and tomorrow’s hopes is a financial literacy gap – which presents an important marketing opportunity for financial institutions. By providing quality educational content, you can set your brand apart, build trust, and grow strong and mutually beneficial relationships.


We’ve seen that U.S. consumers across all demographics lack the skills and resources to realize their financial goals – but it’s worst for young adults. With high schools skimping on financial education and colleges piling on ever-greater amounts of student loan debt, members of Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2010, or thereabouts) report the highest levels of financial stress. But with long and exciting careers just beginning to unfold before them, they also express the highest levels of optimism.

In other words, young adults are thirsty for financial knowledge and full of promise. Banks and credit unions should be asking themselves: How do we establish ourselves as a thought leader and trusted partner – particularly for those just starting out?


Here at Lightstream, we’ve been helping financial institutions across the country to develop educational content that’s relevant, dependable, and true to their brands’ voice and values. Here are a few of our recommended best practices when developing financial wellness content:

  1. Focus on Informing, Not Selling: Many within the banking community have realized that laying the foundation for long-term financial partnerships is just as important as promoting specific products. For example, in the survey noted above, only 16% of respondents were confident they knew how to improve their credit, and 59% were interested in learning more. Financial wellness content that offers tips for boosting credit scores will not immediately drive customers to your lending products, but there is a good chance that those who see you as a trusted advisor, thanks, in part, to your content, will return when they’re ready for a mortgage or auto loan.
  2. Offer Bite-Sized Pieces: The world of finance is full of confusing lingo and complex concepts. Providing various opportunities for microlearning – in the form of infographics, interactive tutorials, explainer videos, and more – can help consumers digest major topics at their own pace. These microlearning elements can be aggregated into more comprehensive guides for consumers in different phases of life. A guide for students could contain a sequence of modules covering the basics of managing money and building credit, while a guide for young professionals could introduce home loans and retirement savings.
  3. Use Financial Content to Differentiate Your Service Offering: Services like tap-and-snap check deposit, account alerts, and P2P payments have become standard offerings that most consumers – Gen Z especially – expect. So, consider how you can differentiate yourself by using your digital platforms to deliver targeted and timely financial wellness content. For instance, we can presume that someone who pays their utility bills through mobile banking will appreciate receiving tips for saving money by using technology to improve their home’s energy efficiency.
  4. Consider Specific Pain Points and Milestones: The above survey found that financial anxiety often spikes around specific life events. Buying a house and buying a car are two obvious ones, and weddings and new babies also rank highly. Financial wellness content can be tailored to these milestones, and employing best practices for organic and local SEO can help you to reach prospects at precisely the right moment. When someone searches for “How do I afford my wedding?” in Google, wouldn’t it be great if your article Three Smart Ways to Pay for Your Wedding appears – and that your content is robust enough to retain their interest.
  5. Think in Terms of Loyalty Loops, Not Sales Funnels: As you envision an educational content strategy, look beyond the sales funnel model that progresses from awareness to interest to desire to action. This model can be useful, but the loyalty loop is often a more accurate representation of today’s customer journey. It’s an ongoing cycle of considerationevaluationenjoymentadvocacy, and bonding. By providing people with advice and support – and not just pitches and promos – you can position your institution as a trusted advisor and enjoy valuable, long-lasting relationships.

Lightstream is a marketing agency with an unusually deep understanding of the financial world. We’ve been specializing in this space for decades, and we currently serve over 40 banks and credit unions – large and small – all across the nation. Our dynamic team of strategists, writers, and designers is ready to help you develop a content marketing plan that leads to meaningful, long-term relationships with your community. Give us a call at 267.642.1885 or send us a message today.