Investor literacy is more important today than ever, given the sea change in how consumers use the stock market, says Lori Schock, director of the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Investing used to be largely the domain of the wealthy at a time when people would have lengthy tenures at one job and most retired with a company-paid pension that lasted their lifetime. However, when self-funding your retirement through vehicles like 401(k)s became more prominent, average consumers started to need to understand investments.
“Now people need to be in charge of their own destiny,” she says. “Their livelihood and peace of mind depend on whether they have enough assets for the rest of their life.”
That’s why she takes seriously her role to help inform consumers about the impact of fraud, coupled with other factors such as fees, rate of return and risk in helping consumers build assets.
The mission of the SEC is threefold, explains Commissioner Hester Peirce: “We help protect investors, facilitate capital formation and foster fair, orderly and efficient markets.”
As an unbiased resource, the SEC holds a unique position to give investors information so they can more confidently engage in voluntary transactions and make choices for themselves. At the same time, its oversight assures consumers they can enter into the markets knowing everyone is playing by the same rules.
Both Hester and Lori urge investors to visit the Investor.gov website to get answers to common questions and read timely alerts. This should give consumers the knowledge to make investment decisions and learn about new products that might be right for them.
The website is just one communication medium the SEC has embraced. It also employs a wide variety of other channels for its public service campaigns, such as search engines, social media platforms and podcasts .
“We try to meet people where they are, on the channels where they are looking for information,” Lori says.
Hester stresses that social media can be a double-edged sword: “You can communicate important information quickly, but it’s also easy for fraudsters to take advantage of that opportunity. That’s why we as an agency also need to engage on those channels and why investment firms should, too.”
In today’s episode, Hester and Lori talk to Jamie about creative ways the SEC is reaching investors, why financial firms should embrace social media, new fraud tactics to be aware of and the value of consumer and investor protections.
- Trust but verify. Consumers can conduct free, anonymous background checks before working with any investment professional.
- Investing is very personal. What may feel comfortable to your neighbor or family member may not be right for you.
- Financial professionals should aim to be transparent – an informed client is a better client.
“We don’t tell people what they can or can’t invest in. We want them to be an educated investor to make informed decisions.” – Lori Schock
Disclaimer: The comments above represent Lori and Hester’s own personal views and are not necessarily those of the SEC or any other commissioners on the SEC.
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