Bogleheads® Financial Literacy Project

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Many Bogleheads, myself included, have noticed we often have opportunities to educate others on a personal, one-on-one or small group level. I’m a physician, and in medicine we have the saying “See one, do one, teach one”. The idea is simply that information and knowledge flow downhill, and that you do not need to be an expert to teach something useful and valuable.

attheblackboardMeeting with an individual or a group to talk about personal finance equipped with only a pad of paper or a dry-erase board can be effective, but it can be difficult to create illuminating tables, charts and graphs on demand. It’s perhaps analogous to a comedian running into an admirer on the street and being commanded to “be funny!” Thus, it is always helpful to have well-designed materials and tools to facilitate teaching.

Last summer, the Bogleheads community created a collaborative area of the site, called the Bogleheads® Financial Literacy Project. It is designed to be a resource for those who wish to educate others via powerpoint-like presentations in a personal setting. The idea was prompted by this post made by forum member “enderland”, who requested feedback on a list of topics for a planned upcoming presentation.

I was interested in the resulting discussion, as I had been attempting for many years to put together a series of talks for medical residents and others at my institution. But I hadn’t gotten around to doing so, because I found it quite difficult and very time consuming to put one together which covered relevant topics in an organized manner, complete with good examples and informative graphics. I realized I was perhaps trying to reinvent the wheel, and started a follow-up thread “Help create a Financial Presentation: Calling all Bogleheads”, where I wrote:

It seems we could ‘crowdsource’ some presentations, no? This issue tends to come up often, when a boglehead who has understanding and knowledge wishes to educate others in a ‘presentation’ format, but does not have the time/experience/design skills to create a powerpoint presentation.

I wondered if people would be willing to post existing presentations they had created, so that others could use them “off the shelf” or modify them.

presentationsThere was an enthusiastic response with dozens of offers to help, and within two days the Bogleheads Financial Literacy Project page was up and running. After some discussion, it was determined that the Project should have two main goals.

First, to come up with a broad list of personal finance topics, for which members could volunteer to create and upload a focused presentation on that topic. From these, others would be able to create a talk of desired length by selecting and combining the topics felt to be appropriate for their audience.

Second, it would serve as a repository for completed presentations written for specific audiences. These completed talks could be used “as is”, or the talks could be easily modified by presenters as desired to make them “their own”. My own submitted talks borrowed several slides and good ideas from previously submitted ones, which I repurposed to meet my needs. It saved me a lot of time, and helped keep me motivated to complete the presentations and upload them for others to use.

So far there are 13 presentations available. Some cover focused topics such as an illustration of the cost of bad credit, or one devoted to illustrating the past returns and volatility of the S&P 500 index . Several presentations are full-length (i.e. designed for an hour-long session) and cover many topics intended for a specific audience, such as those in the military, or medical professionals. We are just getting started, however, and hope that we can continue to build the page and increase available topics.

As Mel Lindauer states on the introductory page of this blog, the Bogleheads Community attempts to “reach out and provide education, assistance and relevant information to investors of all experience levels in as many ways as possible”. The most visible ways in which Bogleheads provides this education is through the forum, the publishing of two books, and through the Wiki, which contains almost 950 pages of information. As an online resource, Bogleheads is wonderful. But every learner is different, and thus multiple different methods of “teaching” are necessary to reach and connect with a diverse audience.

The Bogleheads Financial Literacy Project is one way in which to reach people directly, in a personal way, by giving those who have existing knowledge an easy way to take information “off the internet” and into interactive face-to-face sessions. This is good for the learners and teachers alike, because as we also sometimes say in medicine “teaching is leaning twice.”


Barry Barnitz, administrator of both the Bogleheads® wiki and of Financial Page, a Bogleheads® blog. In addition I serve as an administrator of finiki, the Canadian financial wiki, as an administrator of la Wiki Bogleheads® España, and as an administrator of the John C. Bogle Center for Financial Literacy site.

Posted in Bogleheads, Investing
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