WASHINGTON, D.C., January 24, 2019 – A new report provides an in-depth analysis of local government financial literacy programs across the U.S. The report finds that only about one in four local government employers offer financial literacy programs to their workforce, according to a new survey of human resources directors.

Financial Literacy Programs for Local Government Employees was researched and written by Rivka Liss-Levinson, Ph.D., Joshua Franzel, Ph.D., and Gerald Young, MPA of the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE). The research, which was sponsored by the Wells Fargo Foundation, is available here.

“Local government employees deliver critical services to taxpayers – from public safety to health care to education. But not all employees come to public service with the same level of financial understanding,” said Rivka Liss-Levinson, report co-author and SLGE research director. “Providing financial literacy programs to employees is not just the right thing to do – it also makes good business sense. Financial literacy programs result in more productive and engaged workers, improved morale, lower absenteeism, lower stress and lower healthcare costs. Workers who are in control of their finances are less distracted and can better focus on their job.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Only 26 percent of local government employers offer financial literacy programs to their workforce. A lack of prioritization by leadership (45 percent), internal resources (30 percent), or financial resources (30 percent), are the main reasons that governments do not implement financial literacy programs.
  • Of those governments that do offer financial literacy programs, more than three-quarters cover planning for retirement, budgeting and planning. More than half address debt and investments.
  • However, efforts to address different populations – particularly those with limited formal education, those for whom English is not their primary language, or those in different age groups – are generally not widespread.
  • Only three percent of programs use mobile technology, text messages and social media. No programs report ensuring that materials are culturally relevant to diverse communities.

The practitioner-oriented report provides a landscape assessment of local government employee financial literacy programs. It combines background on workforce issues, a literature review, survey data from local elected officials and human resources directors across the U.S, and insights from discussions with city managers, department heads, and finance officers. It details seven recommendations for local government employers to strengthen employee literacy programs, ranging from developing culturally relevant, tailored materials to utilizing technology to deliver information.

“SLGE’s research is vital because it shows that a majority of local government employees don’t have access to adequate financial education programs at a time when we see shifts in pension plans to defined contribution plans and changes in health benefits,” said Darlene Goins, senior vice president and Head of the Hands on Banking® program at Wells Fargo. “In order for workers to prepare for their financial futures and effectively manage day-to-day financial matters, they need access to programs that can help them gain the knowledge and confidence to make more informed financial decisions. That’s why Wells Fargo is committed to empowering people to improve their financial wellbeing through education programs and initiatives like Hands on Banking.”

SLGE gratefully acknowledges the support from Wells Fargo Foundation to undertake this research project.


The Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) helps local and state governments become knowledgeable and competitive employers so they can attract and retain a talented and committed workforce. SLGE identifies leading practices and conducts research on public retirement plans, health and wellness benefits, workforce demographics and skill set needs, and labor force development. SLGE brings state and local leaders together with respected researchers. Access all SLGE publications and sign up for its newsletter at slge.org and follow @4GovtExcellence on Twitter.

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through 7,950 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 37 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 262,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 26 on Fortune’s 2018 rankings of America’s largest corporations. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

For more than a decade, Wells Fargo has offered its Hands on Banking/El futuro en tus manos program, which is a free, engaging, non-commercial financial education program available in both English and Spanish. The program teaches people in all stages of life about the basics of responsible money management, including how to create a budget, save and invest, borrow responsibly, buy a home, and establish a small business. Since 2003, Hands on Banking has reached nearly 7 million people through classes, workshops, webinars and websites.

Media Contacts:

Kelly Kenneally, Center for State and Local Government Excellence | 202.256.1445 | [email protected] | @4GovtExcellence

Kristopher Dahl, Wells Fargo & Company | 612.667.7271 | [email protected]