IIG #FinLit Profile: Katherine M. Sauer, Ph.D

Katherine M. Sauer, Ph. D

Katherine M. Sauer, Ph. D

On October 11th at 2pm Eastern Standard Time, Invest In Girls along with Jewish Women International and the National Endowment for Financial Education will be holding a TweetChat on Twitter about “Closing The Gender Gap In Financial Literacy” under the hashtag #InvestInHer. In the lead up to that event we have profiled a woman working to address that issue. Katherine M. Sauer, Ph.D. is the Vice President, Research and Programs for the National Endowment for Financial Education. Our interview is about her work in financial literacy and how it is impacted her life.

Can you describe your role at NEFE?
I oversee NEFE’s educational programs, our learning and content development work and our research activities. I’ve got great staff leading each of those areas so my role is to focus on our overall impact as well as represent NEFE externally. In 2020, I’ll be turning my attention to how the field and NEFE can collectively demonstrate impact – not just from one organization’s program or a single initiative but how can we come together to show the sum of our efforts.

What makes you excited to go into work every day?
Every day is different. I might spend time reading a research proposal, hop on a call with leaders from other nonprofit financial literacy organizations to discuss a hot button issue, or meet with staff regarding program evaluation findings.  

As someone who works at an organization dedicated to financial literacy education, why do you personally think Financial Literacy is important? Personal finance permeates our daily lives and is involved in (I’d conjecture) a majority of the decisions we make in general. Not understanding the basics of personal finance means a greater chance of making decisions that have negative impacts for all the other aspects of your life. Understanding personal finance empowers you to make active choices that contribute to your overall well-being. 

How has financial literacy impacted your life as a woman navigating your professional career and in your personal life?
To me, personal finance is an applied version of the economic way of thinking – and believe it or not I’ve been an economist since I was a small child. I just naturally weighed the costs and benefits of just about everything. Since I’ve always thought about the world in terms of trade-offs, incentives, constraints and unintended consequences personal financial decision-making has always felt natural to me. I’ve been able to combine that with my passion for education to make a fulfilling career.

The NEFE philosophy outlines a clear vision of why the organization believes financial literacy education is important while also acknowledging its shortcomings. Why was that important for the org?We want to continuously improve what we are doing in our own programming and to encourage others in the field as well. The personal finance landscape has been changing and it is important to take a critical eye to what is working well and where we can do better.  

Around the world, there is a consistent trend of less investment in women & girls in society both socially and or economically. What do you think the world would look like if we ended that trend?
Any time a society equally values all participants and invests in their development the world is a better place.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing young women and girls today?
Getting a seat at the table, so to speak, is a pervasive challenge in many settings and circumstances. If you don’t have the right experience or the right champions, it is hard to break in from the outside.

What is the best professional and financial advice that you would give to a high school girl starting her first job?
For a first job in high school, I’d say focus on demonstrating you can be on time, contribute positively to the team, and communicate professionally. With regard to how to allocate your paycheck, try to make decisions that are good for both current you and future you.

In honor of International Day of the Girl, if you were a girl in 2019, what would most excite you about the future?
Now more than ever I think it might be true that girls can grow up to choose a career based on their skills and interests (not according to social norms) and not have to fight the status quo at every turn.


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