Examples of research programs sponsored by the Institute


Understanding Social and Cultural Influences on Consumer Behavior

Behavioral Economics
As a research area, financial behavior tanscends any one specific discipline. It includes all of these substantive areas—and more. Financial behavior is learned in cultural contexts through social interactions. Nearly every financial decision involves other people in one way or another. Even when we make financial decisions alone, we take into account the views and potential reactions of other people—spouses, children, friends, colleagues at work, even strangers. Thus, it is useful to think of financial behavior, including motivated decision-making and subsequent action, as embedded within multiple interconnected social contexts rather than as isolated events performed by solitary individuals.

LifeValues Quiz at
Rigorous academic research by Dr. Lois A Vitt, chair and founding director of the Institute for Socio-Financial Studies ( provided the framework for the LifeValues Quiz and accompanying text at, website of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE). The text associated with the quiz on the website is excerpted from Dr. Vitt's 2009 work, "Values-Centered Financial Education: Understanding Cultural Influences on Learners' Financial Behaviors," which was funded by NEFE.

A Training Program for Financial and Investor Educators and Practitioners

Six-Hour Training Program
Recent years have demonstrated a clear need for Americans to be more knowledgeable and better advised on a variety of financial topics, such as housing and investing, health finances, and the finances of adversity and recovery, which usually are not included in routine financial and investor education offerings. This ISFS program is designed as a 6-hour training to help financial and investor educators acquire a more complete picture of their students’ or clients’ life interests, needs and values. It is also intended to help teachers and advisors bring social and cultural context to their education programs. This training is available to professionals in the financial and investor education and advising fields.

American Dream Studies

American Dream Studies examines the socio-financial dimensions of theories and attainments of the American Dream. Research topics include individual and family experiences of upward and downward mobility, consumer financial literacy, health care finances, credit, homeownership, business ownership, and employment, as well as business loss, housing loss, unemployment, and bankruptcy.

Homeownership, Class and Politics: Perceptions of American Homeowners and Renters, completed in 1993, is a study of the social effects of U.S. homeownership.

Financial Literacy Education

Goodbye to Complacency: Financial Literacy Education in the U.S. 2000-2005 is an update to Personal Finance and the Rush to Competence. The update was commissioned and prepared for the AARP. The report was presented at the 2005 US-UK Dialogue on Pensions, July 19-21, 2005, Washington, DC, United States. The Executive Summary of this document may be seen here.

Personal Finance and the Rush to Competence: Financial Literacy Education in the US
Under a research grant from the FannieMae Foundation, ISFS performed a national field study to examine the Personal Finance Education Programs of organizations working in the area of financial literacy education. The Executive Summary of this document may be seen here.

Financial Literacy and the Psychology of Money: An Exploratory Study
An exploratory study aimed to relate findings regarding the psychology of money to the practical problems of financial literacy. This research was conducted by Stefanie Sonnenberg, under an ISFS Internship, and was submitted to the University of Exeter towards the degree of Master of Science in Economic Psychology.

Finances of Aging

Encyclopedia of Retirement and Finance. Edited by ISFS founder Lois A. Vitt, this is the only encyclopedia that focuses on all of the financial issues associated with retirement and later life. The comprehensive, up-to-date, two-volume work includes over 180 entries on the most recent issues in financial planning and investing, retirement plans, health coverage and care, housing, employment and quality of life in retirement. Entries include finance and gerontology concepts, terms, policies and programs, the needs and problems of older adults, and more. Each article features references to research, bibliographies, sources for advice, and guides to further information. The Encyclopedia of Retirement and Finance was published by Greenwood Press in 2003.

Encyclopedia of Financial Gerontology.    This major project investigated financial issues important to both young and old in the latter parts of the life cycle. Business and academic researchers and educators were brought together to produce reference studies that meet the increasing need for financial knowledge among the elderly and their families. The Encyclopedia of Financial Gerontology, compiled and edited under ISFS sponsorship, was published by Greenwood Press in April, 1996.

Pension Funds, their Beneficiaries, and the Internet.    As human-resource relations rely increasingly on Internet-based information, the ways in which employees deal with pension or 401(k) fund administrators poses new challenges. This research project looks at new forms and substances of e-pension relations. ISFS examines in particular how employees can rely on other advice from a multitude of sources to better understand, plan for, and monitor their retirement benefits.

Environmental and Financial Performance Program

Since 1991, ISFS has sought to explore the human and social dimensions of finance and business. The state of the environment has obvious and enormous impacts on human and social issues and in turn the environment is impacted by business and financial concerns. Enlightened business approaches utilize increased efficiency, cost reduction, and competitive advantage to address, create and solve environmental problems. The Environmental and Financial Performance Program performs benchmark studies to find “Best Practices” that promote the environment and increase business performance simultaneously