Financial wellbeing for women (& family violence)

Smartsteps is thrilled to be evaluating the ‘Financial Wellbeing for Women’ program in Victoria. The program aims to give women more control over their money. This contributes to both prevention and recovery from financial abuse and other forms of family violence.

Smartsteps has completed the evaluation of Phase 1 of the pilot. This covered the course material and the train the trainer’ workshops. These were evaluated through assessments by trainee facilitators and comparisons with international good practice. A copy is available here.

We are now evaluating Phase 2 of the pilot. This covers the delivery of the program by 32 local providers across Victoria. The evaluation will look who enrols in the program, what women get out of the program, and (if relevant) how the program can be improved to be sustainable in the long-term. The evaluation report will be available in early 2020.

Evaluation of SARA - Phase 1 - cover.jpg

Evaluating 'Making Money Easy'

Smartsteps has completed the evaluation of Participate Australia’s ‘Making Money Easy’ program. This is a financial literacy program for people with intellectual disabilities.

The project involved converting a paper-based course to an online format. For this project, an innovative evaluation method was used, blending evaluation and user-centred design. The method included user testing and rapid feedback through several cycles of product development as well as an evaluation of the final product. The report showed that the online format was accessible and engaging for most users with an intellectual disability. The evaluation revealed the elements that were particularly engaging, such as pictures, interactive activities and the animated piggy bank activity.

The evaluation also showed the value of a motivating support worker and home based practice, in combination with the online program.

The evaluation report is available here.

Evaluation of Making Money Easy - cover 2.jpg


SmartSteps has recently written the report on the national survey for Ukraine, covering financial literacy, financial inclusion and financial wellbeing. This is a groundbreaking project, as it analyses which financial literacy and inclusion factors are associated with higher financial wellbeing (with other factors held constant). It allows comparison between Ukraine and other countries, through the OECD financial literacy survey methodology.

The survey report (in English) is available here.

Robert will be presenting the findings at the Financial Inclusion Forum in Kiev in June 2019.

Robert is also working with the National Bank of Ukraine to develop a National Financial Literacy Strategy, based on the insights from the national survey. Financial literacy is about helping people do the best they can with their money (for today and tomorrow), given their circumstances. The Strategy is bringing a range of agencies together, and will draw on insights from national strategies around the world.

An outline of the National Strategy is available here.

Financial Wellbeing research in Australia

Great to see the release of groundbreaking Financial Wellbeing Survey by ANZ bank and Elaine Kempson. Robert was on the Advisory Committee for the research. Given that promoting the wellbeing of customers should be at the core of what banks do, he was asked for some quick thoughts about how they should do it.

The #ANZfinancialwellbeing survey is great leadership from ANZ. It showed the biggest influences on wellbeing are:

  • Active saving &

  • Not borrowing for everyday spending.

So banks could:

1. Expand great programs like Saverplus that are proven to foster active saving, even for people with little money.

2. Improve bank products to actively encourage saving, eg

  • virtual buckets within your account to separate savings from spending money,

  • monthly reminders (praise) on how your saving is tracking,

  • encourage an automatic transfer to your savings bucket each pay day,

  • ask you to upload a picture of what you are saving for

3. All banks should ditch reward points for spending on credit cards. Reward points actively undermine financial wellbeing. They encourage the delusion that you “benefit” from using your credit card for everyday spending, but they just weaken people’s restrain on spending.  See the research evidence here from Paul Harrison. 

4. Banks should promote a norm that your DEBIT card is for everyday spending, and your CREDIT card is borrowing money to buy an important thing and pay it off quickly. 

Financial inclusion in Indonesia

We are assisting Indonesia to promote their new National Strategy for Financial Inclusion, which was launched by President Widodo in November 2016. To complement the supply side initiatives, a consumer communication strategy is needed so consumers understand the new options available, see the potential benefits and are motivated to take action. The project involves the National Strategy secretariat, World Bank and Women's World Banking.

President Widodo

President Widodo

Keynote presentation on evaluation

It was an honour to give the keynote presentation at the OECD - ADBI - State Bank of Vietnam conference on financial literacy and consumer protection.

The talk focused on how evaluation is essential to delivering programs that actually work. Evaluation is a learning process - it helps us learn where programs are and are not working, and how to improve them to get better results for consumers.

The presentation used 3 examples of programs to show how even simple evaluations can give useful insights into how a program is working.  Evaluation meant that each program's story is about the better outcomes for consumers, not about how busy the program organisers were.  The conference participants (from all over Asia) seemed relieved that evaluation need not be as scary as they had thought!  

A copy of the presentation is available here:

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National Savings Strategy in the Middle East

We are proud to have helped a major Middle East country to develop a financial education strategy as part of a national savings strategy.

It is easy to list all the supply side initiatives that would increase the availability of savings products, and increase financial incentives. But the demand side is just as important. We outlined the practical steps to change the attitudes to saving within an Islamic culture,  and ways to reach the maximum number of people.


One of Robert's projects outside SmartSteps is to run the grants program at Financial Literacy Australia (FLA). FLA funded 40 innovative projects so far, with grants totalling $A5 million. Projects are typically innovative pilots with evaluation, or research with practical implications. 

In 2017, FLA expects to allocate $A1.5 million to a new round of projects in Australia.


Building financial literacy in Indonesia

Robert is currently working on several projects with the World Bank and the Financial Services Authority (OJK)  to foster financial literacy in Indonesia.

The Indonesian National Financial Literacy Strategy has a target to increase financial literacy by 2% every year. While 2% might sound a small number, for Indonesia that means 3.5 million people every year!

Indonesia has an innovative law where all financial service providers are required by law to be involved in financial education programs. Robert has reviewed the existing programs and made recommendations about how the regulator can help make the industry programs more effective and accountable.

Other countries might want to have a similar law: this would be good for both financial consumers and national development.



New grants program for financial literacy

In tough economic times, it is great to see new money becoming available for financial literacy. Financial Literacy Australia has just launched a $5.6 million grants program.  See

The money comes from corporate donations as part of legal settlements with ASIC, the financial services regulator. This is similar to the main funding source behind the FINRA Foundation in the USA and the Investor Education Fund in Canada.

Other countries may like to follow this example.  Instead of fines being paid to the government, the money helps the community directly.

Formation of SmartSteps

We are pleased to have formed SmartSteps — an international consultancy specialising in financial literacy strategies and programs.

We will add to the website over time as our projects grow.  We look forward to working with people from a range of countries and sharing our passion and experience.