How one nonprofit is turning to AI to help boost women’s financial literacy

Personal Finance

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Most Americans consider money to be a private topic, and women are among those most reluctant to engage in financial conversations.

But not asking the questions they need help with can hold them back financially, experts say.

One women-focused nonprofit has launched a new way to help them get faster answers to their queries through the use of an online AI chatbot.

The organization, Savvy Ladies, was founded more than 20 years ago by Stacy Francis, a certified financial planner and president and CEO of Francis Financial in New York City.

After seeing her grandmother stay in an abusive situation because she lacked financial resources, Francis created the nonprofit with the goal of helping other women avoid similar situations.

The new chatbot — provided through Microsoft Copilot — allows visitors to the Savvy Ladies website to type in their financial questions and receive immediate answers curated from the website’s content written by CFPs and other financial professionals.

“We want to make sure that we are able to help anyone, any woman who has a question,” said Francis, who is also a member of CNBC’s FA Council. “This is something that she can go on literally at 3 a.m. and be able to get her question answered.”

That first engagement always closes with a prompt via the Savvy Ladies’ helpline for a one-on-one conversation with a professional who can provide advice and guidance.

“We want everyone to learn and grow in their knowledge, but still feel that they’re they can come and ask their own individual question and get matched,” said Judy Herbst, executive director of Savvy Ladies.

AI tools can’t replace financial advice

Artificial intelligence language models may play an important and evolving role in financial literacy, said Michael Roberts, the William H. Lawrence professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

But today’s tools are still developing and are a complement to — rather than a replacement of — our own personal financial knowledge and decision making, he said.

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“To use these tools, you have to be able to engage with them; but to be able to engage with them, you have to be able to know what questions to ask, [and] how to ask them,” Roberts said. “And you have to be able to understand the responses coming back at you.”

Due to the fast rate of progress in this space, it’s hard to forecast where these tools will be even in another year or two, Roberts said.

Individual investors are already showing signs they are starting to embrace these tools.

Investors are more likely to trust advice from generative AI tools than from social media, according to a survey released last year from the CFP Board, a professional organization representing professional financial planners.

Yet they are more likely to be comfortable acting on that advice once it has been verified by a financial planner, the results found.

Technology experts who sit on Savvy Ladies’ board hope the new chatbot will help expand the nonprofit’s reach.

“We live in a world where you scroll TikTok or you scroll Instagram and you want an instant answer,” said Julia Rodgers, CEO of Hello Prenup and a Savvy Ladies board member.

“It’s very important for nonprofits like Savvy Ladies to keep up with that so that we can continue to deploy those services to those in need,” she said.

Since Savvy Ladies launched the tool, the chat bot has received questions regarding how to establish a monthly budget, build better credit and earn more money, according to Herbst.

The nonprofit is still refining the chatbot, she said. One goal is to make its voice match the organization’s mission.

“It’s a navigator, but we want it to be a soft-spoken female voice that comes through,” Herbst said.

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