On May 23, CFP Board executive director Sarah Teslik testified in front of a
Senate Banking Committee hearing on financial literacy and the nation's
savings crisis. Later that day she offered some provocative solutions, or at
least suggestions, to the savings shortfall in an appearance on ABC's
In her Senate testimony, Teslik noted that there is an explosion in the
amount of financial information available and, at the same time,
"once-distinct scientific disciplines are blurring." Obvious examples she
cited include neuro-economics and behavioral finance. "Financial literacy
and financial planning are at the epicenter of this convergence of
disciplines," she said.
Comparing the savings crisis to the obesity epidemic, she lamented that all
this information wasn't having a positive effect on the majority Americans.
Savings, she said, involves "postponed gratification."
But it was later that evening on Nightline when Teslik offered her most
provocative ideas, including the possibility of "medication" to help people
save. What follows is part of the transcript of her interview with ABC's
BASHIR: (Voiceover) The battle against obesity and other addictive behaviors like
TESLIK: It is exactly the same thing as the obesity epidemic. That there's tons of
information available. In fact, you can't turn around without seeing a
magazine cover that has yet another article about dieting. There's
information about dieting everywhere. Is it working? No. The people
interested in the obesity epidemic have realized that it is this behavioral
wiring thing, like the spending epidemic. And have tried to, as a starter,
figure out, has anyone succeeded at addressing this addiction? And if so,
what can we learn from that?
BASHIR: (Voiceover) She says individuals need group support to make any kind of
TESLIK: We know for sure that the single-most effective program combating alcoholism
is Alcoholics Anonymous. There's nothing fancy about that program. It's
simply people who have all been there themselves getting together and
holding each other's hands, literally or figuratively and saying 'you can do
it, I know it's tough.'
BASHIR: (Voiceover) But Sarah Teslik believes that the long-term solution to
uncontrolled spending may have to come from more controversial strategies.
TESLIK: (Voiceover) Medication's a possibility. There are interesting things going
on in that area. Another way to get out, this is to look at financial
behaviors that are compelling and copy them. The most obvious one is
gambling. Gambling works. People love gambling. We know that gambling is a
very seductive structure for human beings. So, we could tap that structure
and turn it into a good thing for spending, in a couple ways. We could have
people contribute to their pension plans, to retirement plans. But some goes
into a collective pool first. And all of it gets divvied up into the pension
funds, except for $100 million, which someone wins as a lottery at the end
of the year.