Veteran retirement savings researcher Olivia S. Mitchell has been awarded the top honor by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation for her work on pensions, retirement income and financial literacy.
Ms. Mitchell received the Ketchum Prize, named for Richard Ketchum, the former chairman and CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc.
"An alarming number of Americans are financially unprepared for the retirement that awaits them," said Gerri Walsh, FINRA foundation president, in a news release. Ms. Mitchell's research "underscores the critical role that financial literacy plays in Americans' financial decision-making and behaviors," Ms. Walsh added.
In an interview, Ms. Mitchell advocated for the need for financial education even before people have full-time jobs. "I try to encourage financial literacy in high school," she said. Early knowledge about debt, credit cards, interest rates and student loans will serve students well when they are in college, said Ms. Mitchell, who holds multiple titles at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, including executive director of the Pension Research Council and professor of business economics and public policy.
Ms. Mitchell encouraged employers to offer financial literacy and education to workers on an ongoing basis. "This needs to be reinforced," she said. "You can't give them one dose and say you are fixed."
Employers should approach financial education as a form of enlightened self-interest because "employees who are stressed are not going to be as productive," Ms. Mitchell said.
More research is necessary on the decumulation phase — the spending phase — of retirement plan management because "Social Security is not going to carry the heavy burden by itself," she added.