Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

The Finnish Experience – Happiness Is Financial Illiteracy

We’re told that Finland is financially illiterate, so much so that the central bank is desperately trying to teach people how to count their money. We’re also told that Finland is the happiest country on Earth. Thus, ineluctably, we are drawn to the conclusion that financial illiteracy is the path to happiness.

Somehow the Telegraph manages to get the logic the wrong way around here:

The key to happiness is financial literacy, say the Finns

Well, we could believe that, certainly. The sort of literacy that tells us that we rich nation peeps are living higher on the hog than any group of humans ever have done would create, we would hope at least, a certain warm contemplation. That anyone with the mortgage paid off and a reasonable pension pot is among the global 1% in terms of wealth. That getting just a little above the median wage puts us into the top 1% by income. We’re privileged, hugely so, winners of that lottery ticket of life.

The thing is, that’s not actually what Finland is saying at all:

New forms of loans offered outside the traditional banking sector have also made borrowing easier and more attractive. The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority said last year that the practice of taking out new instant loans to service old debts had become more common.

“This development creates risks for individuals and the national economy alike,” said justice minister Anna-Maja Henriksson.

OK, dangerous credit boom.

The central bank has responded with a project to improve financial literacy. “By setting common objectives and coordinating the activities better, we can improve the financial literacy of Finns more efficiently,” said its governor Olli Rehn. “Financial literacy is a key civic skill.”

The central bank is desperately trying to improve financial literacy. And, yes, the nation is recorded as being the happiest on the planet.

It does have to be, therefore, that the Telegraph has got the headline the wrong way around. It’s financial illiteracy which leads to happiness, no?

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Bernie G.
Bernie G.
4 years ago

Correctamundo: ignorance is happiness. There might be a vague lingering feeling that all isn’t well, but what the hell… Spend, spend, spend, as Viv Nicholson once said.

Bloke in Germany
Bloke in Germany
4 years ago

Income/expenditure and balance sheet accounting should be mandatory subjects at school, not the lame “cashflow only” examples I remember from sub-basic maths classes*. Wouldn’t take too long. Few lessons over a few weeks.

As should teaching kids that you can expect that balance sheet to look very different at different times of your own life (which explains the correlation between age and attitude to redistribution).

*: Saddam has £12.50. Saddam buys a donut for 26p and a SCUD missile for £11. How many more donuts could Saddam afford?

4 years ago

We did that in Primary School. Don’t schools any more teach blah blah etc.

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
4 years ago

See the happy moron,
He doesn’t give a damn.
I wish I were a moron
My God, perhaps I am!

(Anon – possibly Dorothy Parker, although portraying herself as ‘happy’ rather than suicidal would be unusual)

4 years ago

In my professional life I was privileged to work with a number of Finnish colleagues, and to man -and woman – they were the most morose people on earth. On the other hand, break out the Koskenkorva or Finlandia or any bottle of distilled alcohol, and the whole scene changed. They were the happiest morose people in the world.

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