The Securities and Exchange Commission has been increasing its emphasis on the need for investor education and many of its efforts have been directed toward the mutual fund industry.
One of the most recent initiatives has been the creation of the Financial Facts Tool Kit, an online resource developed by the SEC's Office of Investor Education. The site is part of the Facts on Saving and Investment Campaign, a two-year-old joint effort of the private and public sector to educate people about investing. Located at www.sec.gov/consumer/toolkit.htm, the site has a primer on mutual funds, a retirement savings guide and worksheet, and recommended questions for brokers and information about stocks, bonds and risk. The site went online in August and within the first two weeks over 16,000 people visited it.
As more Americans invest in securities - especially mutual funds - to build up their retirement savings through 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts, the SEC has devoted more resources to providing information about investing and retirement.
The information posted on the Web is only a small part of the SEC's educational effort. The SEC wants the private sector to get further involved in educating America's investors. The focus of the SEC's efforts in 1999 will be to disseminate investor education materials in workplaces and schools, says Nancy Smith, director of the SEC's Office of Investor Education.
"People with financial problems tend to be distracted and less productive and often miss time from work," Smith said. "Companies that invest in financial education programs are more than repaid through improved morale, increased productivity and higher employee retention rates."
Smith hopes that fund companies will get involved by either voluntarily adding educational materials from the campaign to their shareholder communications or by participating in school programs sponsored by the campaign.
"We'd like to see the members of the mutual fund indusrty market investor edcation materials as aggressively as they market their products." said Smith.