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· 9 min read
zach wick


Financial literacy is a body of knowledge necessary to have in order to make well-informed decisions when presented with financial situations. It is generally assumed that financial education can have a positive impact on financial literacy. However, individual characteristics of both the learner and the financial education itself have direct and significant effects on the efficacy of the financial education. This literature review explores how learner wealth, alignment of financial educational content to other desired outcomes, and the nature of the transferred knowledge impact financial education's efficacy.

Does financial education increase financial literacy?

In the most high level view, financial education does have some positive effect on financial literacy. In a meta-analysis of 201 studies comprising 168 papers, Fernandes et. al. found that "interventions to improve financial literacy explain only 0.1% of the variance in financial behaviors studied..." (2014, p. 1861). Furthermore, Fernandes et. al.'s meta-analysis revealed that "measured knowledge of financial facts had a weak relationship to financial behavior in econometric studies controlling for omitted variable bias" (2014, p. 1873).

A later meta-analysis by Kaiser and Menkhoff of 126 impact evaluation studies found that "financial education significantly impacts financial behavior and, to an even larger extent, financial literacy" (2017, p. 611). This meta-analysis also found "financial education is less effective for low-income clients as well as in low- and lower-middle-income economies" (Kaiser & Menkhoff, 2017, p. 611). This distinction in financial education efficacy along a demographic property is also present in the meta-analysis completed by Fernandes et. al. as well as in individual studies (Fernandes et. al., 2014, p. 1861).

What should financial education teach?

In a study by Postmus et. al., 85.1% of the 195 participants reported a yearly household income of less than $25,000 ( 2015, p. 255). This study sought to understand the impact of a financial education intervention provided to a random sample of female survivors of domestic abuse. Both women in general, and domestic abuse survivors specifically, are noted for being demographic groups at risk for financial challenges (Postmus et. al., 2015). Postmus et. al. note that financial education programs deployed by nonprofit domestic violence organizations speak to topics such as "basic financial management skills, such as saving, budgeting, getting or repairing credit, cash flow management, purchasing a home, predatory lending practices, financing major purchases, investing, and wise spending habits" (2015, p. 251). The financial challenges faced by these two groups are not too far removed from the financial challenges faced by other demographic groups. In a study by Friedline and West, adults born between the early 1980s and 2000s - generally " millennials" - "earn the lowest incomes of their careers while making financial decisions about attending postsecondary education, living independently from families of origin, finding employment, repaying educational debt, purchasing a home, and saving for retirement" (2016, p. 649).

How should financial education teach?

The study by Friedline and West analyzed data collected in the 2012 National Finance Capability Survey (2016, p. 649). This survey was "comissioned by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and was completed online by a sample of 25509 adults in the United States between July and October 2012, which was nationally representative when population weights were applied" (Friedline & West, 2016, p. 653). Friedline and West's study used the responses of 6865 millennials to show that financial education that "focus solely on financial education or inclusion may be insufficient for facilitating Millennial's healthy financial behaviors; interventions should instead develop financial capability" (2016, p. 653). Friedline and West describe "financial capability" as the combination of the declarative knowledge from financial education as well as the procedural knowledge of how to apply it (2016, p. 653).

This theme of impactful financial education needing to provide both declarative and procedural knowledge can be found in other studies. In their study with female survivors of domestic abuse, Postmus et. al. used a financial education program that adhered to a "reasoned action approach (RAA), a manifestation of the Theory of Planned Behavior" (2015, p. 253). Viewed through the lens of RAA, a successfull financial education is one that "changes participants' knowledge, behavior, and intention to perform the behavior" (Postmus et. al., 2015, p. 253). The curriculum used is this study is specifically constructed to impart both declarative financial knowledge and procedural financial knowledge that is applicable to the lived experiences of domestic abuse survivors. Postmus et. al. did find that learning from such a tailor-made curriculum did significantly improve participant's outcomes.

Furthermore, Postmus et. al. found that "the impact of the curriculum persisted over the full 12-month, post-curriculum, follow-up period" (2015, p. 262). Juxstaposed to this result is a finding by Fernandes et. al. that "even large interventions with many hours of instruction have negligible effects on behavior 20 months or more from the time of intervention" (2014, p. 1861). This juxstapositioning suggests that it may be the case that a financial education aligned with the learner's specific needs will be most effective in the post-intervention period.

This result of enhanced efficacy due to content aligning with the specific needs of learners is significant enough that financial education has been used as a secondary concern in order to positively affect a primary concern. Courtney et. al. developed a smoking cessation study protocol to "evaluate the potential of co-managing financial stress as a means of enhancing smokers' capacity to quit smoking" (2014, p. 1602). While this "two-group parallel block randomized (ratio 1:1) open-label clinical trial (RCT) with allocation concealment" study protocol is not accompanied by the actual performance of the study protocol outlined, the authors do note that "financial stress consistently predicts lower probabilities of sustained abstinence, even after controlling for nicotine addiction, psychological stress and use of cessation aids" (2014, pp. 1602 - 1603).

When should financial education teach?

Aligning financial education with a particular learner's specific needs for increased efficacy can mean simply aligning the curriculum's financial content with it's non-financial content. Financial education efficacy can also be augmented by the temporal proximity of financial education to the immediate needs of the learners. While this temporal proximity of financial education to learner needs can be seen in the study by Postmus et. al., it also can be be seen in a study by Gerrans. In their study, Gerrans writes "The undergraduate years, therefore, appear to present a teachable moment when students could acquire financial knowledge and skills, as well as develop the attitudes of behavior required for financial independence" (2020, p. 1). In this regard, the results of these individual studies are also borne out in the meta-analysis by Fernandes et. al. who write "We suggest a real but narrower role for 'just-in-time' financial education tied to specific behaviors it intends to help" (2014, p. 1861).

It remains unclear which of facet of financial education, either temporal proximity of the instruction or the alignment of the content to more generalized goals, has the greatest effect on financial literacy. In either case, it appears that temporal proximity of financial education to the behaviors that it seeks to modify can help provide the procedural knowledge that is a necessary component of such financial education being successful. Gerrans found that among undergraduate students who receive financial education during these formative years "retain significant objective and subjective financial literacy effects, with modest decay, three years after completing a unit of personal finance education" (2020, p. 1). Notably, this study found a "sustained positive effect for checking the affordability of purchases, which remained for three years after the unit" (Gerrans, 2020, p. 16). This result suggests that learners who receive financial education temporally near behaviors using that information are likely to retain the learned knowledge for much longer than the knowledge gained from purely declarative financial education.


Financial education's impact on financial literacy as evidenced in human behavior attenuates over time. The rate of attenuation can be slowed however by aligning financial education content to the immediate needs of the particular learners and providing the instruction at a time just before the learners will need to apply it. These results indicate that financial education is most effective when it imparts both declarative and procedural knowledge. This result arises both via a meta-analysis of the literature and in particular studies looking at demographic groups known to be at-risk for financial problems. Educators should take these themes into account when designing and providing financial education.


Brugiavini, A., Cavapozzi, D., Padula, M., & Pettinicchi, Y. (2020). On the effect of financial education on financial literacy: Evidence from a sample of college students. Journal of Pension Economics & Finance, 19(3), 344-352.

Fernandes, D., Lynch, J. G., & Netemeyer, R. G. (2014). Financial literacy, financial education, and downstream financial behaviors. Management Science, 60(8), 1861-1883.

Friedline, T., & West, S. (2015;2016;). Financial education is not enough: Millennials may need financial capability to demonstrate healthier financial behaviors. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 37(4), 649-671.

Gerrans, P. (2021). Undergraduate student financial education interventions: Medium term evidence of retention, decay, and confidence in financial literacy. Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, 67,


Iterbeke, K., De Witte, K., Declercq, K., & Schelfhout, W. (2020;2019;). The effect of ability matching and differentiated instruction in financial literacy education. evidence from two randomised control trials. Economics of Education Review, 78,


Kaiser, T., & Menkhoff, L. (2017). Does financial education impact financial literacy and financial behavior, and if so, when? The World Bank Economic Review, 31(3), 611-630.

Lusardi, A., & Mitchell, O. S. (2014). The economic importance of financial literacy: Theory and evidence: Theory and evidence. Journal of Economic Literature, 52(1), 5-44.

Postmus, J. L., Hetling, A., & L. Hoge, G. (2015). Evaluating a financial education curriculum as an intervention to improve financial behaviors and financial well-being of survivors of domestic violence: Results from a longitudinal randomized controlled study. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 49(1), 250-266.

Wagner, J. (2019). Financial education and financial literacy by income and education groups. Financial Counseling and Planning, 30(1), 132.

Xiao, J. J., & O'Neill, B. (2016). Consumer financial education and financial capability. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 40(6), 712-721.


This work was created for Educational Foundations & Inquiry 6420 Research in Education at Bowling Green State University to fulfill a requirement to construct a literature review of an area of personal interest.

· 10 min read
zach wick

What is IndieHackers, and how does it align with the definition of community of practice?

IndieHackers is an online community of entrepreneurially minded people who are "seeking financial independence, creative freedom, and the ability to work on their own schedule" (Stripe, 2021). Most members of the IndieHackers online platform tend to be the founders or very early employees of tech-forward startups and small businesses. The IndieHackers website ( features:

  • a forum where members can "Talk shop with other indie hackers" (Stripe, 2021)
  • a list of upcoming meetups whereby members can "Meet indie hackers across the globe" (Stripe, 2021)
  • a database of member-created projects where members can "See what everyone's working on" (Stripe, 2021)
  • a store where members can "buy an Indie Hackers t-shirt" (Stripe, 2021)
  • a newsletter by which members can "Stay up-to-date in 5 minutes or less" (Stripe, 2021)
  • a section where members can submit long-form writings with the community to "Share your knowledge and experiences" ( Stripe, 2021)

A community of practice as defined by Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner is a group of people "who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly" (2015). The IndieHackers website is an archetypal example of an online community of practice.

Members of IndieHackers, who call themselves "indie hackers", are encouraged to share updates on their independent projects regularly and community members provide feedback to these updates that draw on their own areas of expertise and knowledge. Some project updates are celebrating successes, and some are asking for advice from the community. In either case, the community support and feedback is often useful and is always supportive.

In addition to the various web properties, the IndieHackers organization also has a podcast network of podcasts created by and for the community on topics often inspired by the community's discussions and posts.

How does IndieHackers demonstrate the three characteristics of a community of practice?

The Wenger-Trayners explicitly list three characteristics of a community of practice. With regard to the domain characteristic, the membership of a community of practice shares a "shared competence that distinguishes members from other people" (2015). In the IndieHackers community, this shared competence is in creating and executing on a tech-forward, usually software based, startup without going the traditional venture-capital backed route. This means that most of the projects made by members of the IndieHackers community are either self-funded or bootstrapped businesses. This defining characteristic of the financial structure of the project directly influences every aspect of the project and is the main contributor to indie hackers finding their tribe online with other entrepreneurs on similar paths.

As previously described, the members of the IndieHackers community routinely solicit and provide advice on business practices. In addition to this online information sharing via the community forum, there are also self-organizing IndieHacker meetups around the world. As would be expected, these in-person gatherings have diminished in frequency over the last ~two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were replaced with online meetups and live community discussions, and are now beginning to make a reappearance as people become more comfortable meeting in person again in some situations.

The Wenger-Trayners third characteristic of a community of practice is "the practice", which is defined as "a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems ..." (2015). In the IndieHackers community, this shared set of information and experiences to draw from is ever present. It is present when an indie hacker asks for advice on how to optimize a sales conversion funnel and a host of other indie hackers reply with what previously worked for them in a similar situation. It is present when an indie hacker is a guest on one of the various podcasts in the community's network and shares an anecdote about the "aha! moment" that led them to start their business. The various tips, tricks, practices, and tools that can be leveraged to help non-venture capital startups succeed are regularly discussed and dissected by the group to reason down to the root of why that particular solution works for the situations where it does and why it doesn't work in the others.

How does IndieHackers adopt the seven principles for cultivating a community of practice?

Wegner lists seven principles for cultivating a community of practice. For each of those principles listed below, IndieHackers provides a clear illustration of how that principle can be put into practice.

Design for evolution

IndieHackers originally began as nothing more than a series of ten interviews with business founders whose creating narratives resonated with the original creator of IndieHackers. The early dialogs and responses to these interviews caused a well-known Silicon Valley venture-backed startup, the antithesis of what an indie hacker would aspire to build, Stripe, to acquire IndieHackers. This acquisition was fueled by Stripe's desire to see more tech-forward online businesses in the world since that demographic is Stripe's ideal customer segment. Because Stripe views IndieHackers as a "top of the funnel" customer acquisition mechanism, Stripe provides IndieHackers with a budget and some general guidance but otherwise lets the community self-organize with the gentle nudges from the core IndieHackers staff. This has allowed areas of the community to develop such as written interviews turning into podcast interviews turning into a network of related but distinct podcast shows.

Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives

Because the IndieHackers community focuses on non-venture capital backed startups, which are the minority of tech startups, much of the discussion is through that lens. Occasionally, the IndieHackers podcast will have a guest who is not a self-identifying indie hacker. On those occasions, there is often informational discussion, both in the podcast episode and then in the community forum, about the advantages and disadvantages of applying the guest's provide information to indie hacker projects. While this isn't a clear two-way dialog and mixing of perspectives, it is almost always insightful and inspiring.

Invite different levels of participation

Because IndieHackers is in essence a customer acquisition strategy for Stripe with some ancillary benefits to members of the community who usually end up becoming Stripe customers, there is a wide variety of how members participate. Some members draw a salary from Stripe and their day job is to build the infrastructure that powers the IndieHackers web properties and serve as lead decision makers in the community. Other community members serve as volunteer moderators and help steward useful and respectful community interactions. The largest group of IndieHackers members are peripheral members who tend to consume more of the community's content than create it. Regardless of ones previous level of participation in the IndieHackers community, the community itself is encouraging and empowering of indie hackers however they choose to participate on any one topic/event/item.

Develop both public and private community spaces

While the IndieHackers community forum can be read by non-members, only members (i.e. someone who has created an account) can write in the forum. This allows the community to attract new members who find value in consuming the content and chose to move into the community and become a participant.

Additionally, the IndieHacker in-person meetups are private events that are only attended by community members. These private events share the same ethos as the online properties, but enable forming more personal connections within the community than the online properties do.

Focus on value

Usually when people find the IndieHackers community, they join it because they found some initial value in their interactions with the community. The exceptions to this rule are mostly people who Stripe has employed to enable IndieHackers and it is assumed that some of those employees only join the community initially because doing so is a prerequisite for doing their job functions. However, community members often quickly find value in the learnings that are gleaned from the various content and ensuing discussion put out by other community members. This is evidenced in the default ordering of forum posts by popularity as judged by the voting and engagement by the community. Presumably, a post would only be engaged with and then up-voted by a community member if they either received some value from it themselves or if they thought that the post would likely be of value to someone else in the community. This default ordering allows the most potentially valuable content to a community member to be presented first and foremost in the IndieHackers homepage.

Combine familiarity and excitement

While every business faces the same general shape of problem along its lifecycle, each business has their own unique nuance to their version of the particular general business problem. For members of the IndieHackers community, many of these business problems cannot be solved by simply "throwing money at the problem" as a venture capital backed business can because the companies that are created by indie hackers usually do not have extra cash on hand to spend. (As a member of the IndieHackers community myself, I cannot write that sentence without adding an aside that it is my belief that a VC backed business "throwing money at a problem" usually only solves the problem in the short-term as the solution to the problem becomes its own problem of being an often ongoing and often large cost).

Because of this nature of the problems faced by indie hackers, and because of the shared ethos that values clever non-monetary solutions to business problems that drive indie hackers to join the IndieHackers community, many times the community is able to discuss the issue in such a way as to unblock the stuck indie hacker in a way that allows all discussion participants to view their role and efforts in the community in a positive light. This "excitement" comes in the form of a dopamine hit by solving a problem within the bounds implied by the IndieHackers community ethos.

Create a rhythm for the community

The IndieHackers community rhythm is present, but is often imperceptible until after-the-fact. Because of the nature of the community, tech-forward startups, the projects and people involved in the IndieHackers community tend to be early adopters and advocates of new technology. This means that the IndieHackers community tends to be at the forefront of startups entering a new space. Currently, this is "web3" and cryptocurrency protocol backed projects, but only a year ago, the "new big thing" that many IndieHackers where building for were podcasts (Me included - see for an example of a project that was created during the previous tech hype cycle and has since been placed on the back burner).

The community does have regular rhythmic events such as a Black Friday deal sharing event where community members share their project's seasonal deals with the community, and many of the in-person meetups have their own regular cadence.


Stripe. (n.d.).Start a Profitable Side Project in 2020. Indie Hackers. Retrieved November 25, 2021, from

Wenger-Traynor, E. and Wenger-Traynor, B. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice. Retrieved from

Wenger, et al. (2002). Chapter 3. Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice.Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge.


This work was created for Instructional Design 6740 Digital Learning Theories at Bowling Green State University.