We need financial education for the finance industry

September 06, 2010

There is no question that financial education is sorely needed in our educational system ("No-frills financial primer — for adults," Sept. 5). However, to focus on consumers' need for skepticism is to skew our understanding of the problem such teaching is meant to correct.

People who trust others are frequently blamed for their naiveté when their trust is betrayed, a common form of blaming the victim. In advising us to recognize that mortgage brokers, loan officers, et al., are not "just being nice" when they fail to verify loan-worthiness and thus put us at risk, financial experts obscure the elephant in the room: the fact that those who control the gateways to our financial security will lie, cheat and steal in order to make more money for themselves. These are the people who are to blame.

Perhaps the sorest need in financial education is to teach those in the financial industry their moral and fiduciary obligations. While many business schools now offer classes in "business ethics," a more effective teaching method would be enforcement of regulations, stronger sanctions and prison sentences. Tighter oversight of advertising and putting major provisions of consumer contracts (like those for cell phone service) in large, bold type would also ameliorate the situation.

For our protection, we should have "consumer audits" of businesses conducted alongside their regular financial audits; these would expose and require investigation into outrageous, unfounded charges for medical, legal and other expenses.

Nancy Henley, Cockeysville

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