The Editor’s Vision
The Editor’s Role
What is the role of a journal editor?
Some may see the editor’s role as grammar cop, searching for incorrect
usage of “which” and “that” and other lapses. As editor, I have my own
pet peeves, but I see this type of editing as mainly a matter of attempting
to promote clear communication. Many rules are arbitrary (e.g., for “which”
versus “that”, see Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, 1989,
pp. 894-896). I try to refrain from “which” hunts, although if a sentence
construction offends me, I will change it.
If a journal were edited the same
way as most conference proceedings, the editor’s primary role would be
to select appropriate reviewers who were knowledgeable in the methods and
subject of a particular manuscript, and then abide by the opinion of the
reviewers. If the editor makes one decision to accept or reject, as is
done with conference papers, this is a manageable procedure. However, reviewers
may disagree, or an author may offer a more compelling argument than a
reviewer. The editor must exercise judgement. There is, however, a more
important role for the editor. What type of articles should be in a particular
journal? Ultimately, the editor of a journal will determine what will be
the niche of the journal. The editor should consider the constituents of
The Journal’s Constituencies
An academic journal has several constituencies,
and any one subscriber may belong to several of these groups at the same
time. The most concerned group consists of the aspiring authors, who may
need publications to keep their jobs or receive promotions. The unfortunate
truth is that these victims of the “publish or perish” syndrome usually
receive little credit for clearly communicating research results, and have
little motivation to rewrite an article a dozen times just to make it understandable
to more readers. Another group consists of faculty who want to keep up
with research in the field. This group may have the training to understand
some types of research, but not necessarily all types of research and theories.
For an interdisciplinary journal such as Financial Counseling and Planning,
there is an enormous range of theoretical models and statistical methods
used. Few, if any, people are competent to understand all of the models
and methods used in articles in this journal.
The AFCPE Mission
The leaders of the Association
for Financial Counseling and Planning Education have had a vision of an
organization that could serve the needs of both academic researchers and
practitioners. Other organizations have had a similar vision, but in many
cases, practitioners have been dissatisfied with the organization’s research
journal. There may be pressure for a journal to publish more applied, or
even “how-to” articles, or practitioners may simply tolerate the organization’s
journal without much enthusiasm. In some organizations, practitioners may
start dropping out because they do not feel they benefit from the overly
“academic” articles published in the journal.
The Editor’s Vision
As editor, I would like this journal
to focus on publishing original research. (The article by Mason in this
issue is an exception, but it describes the new Accredited Financial Counselor
program, which is so important for AFCPE .) There are other journals
and magazines that can publish “how-to” articles. There is a great need
for more financial management research, and this journal should provide
a primary outlet for such research. I believe that it is possible, however,
to make research articles readable. If we have the goal of making every
article accessible to practitioners, we will also make it more likely that
articles will be read by academics, who often do not bother to read long,
boring articles outside their narrow specializations. I propose the following
guidelines for readability:
1. Except in extraordinary cases,
there should be no more than 6,000 words in the main body of an article.
Depending on the use of graphs and other figures, this will limit articles
to 20 to 30 pages in the journal format.
2. Every theoretical model and statistical
method should be explained in a way that any intelligent person can understand.
3. No numbers should be presented
in the main body of an article unless they can be made meaningful to any
intelligent person. All statistical results would be included in the manuscript
submitted for review, but, with advice from the reviewers and the editor,
more technical material would be included in endnotes and appendices. Particularly
long tables might be listed as unpublished appendices available from the
4. All important results should
be described in clear language, and, where appropriate, illustrated graphically.
The reader should not have to work to comprehend results from numbers or
tables. The author should work harder, with as many revisions as necessary,
to make the reader’s task easier.
Obviously, I have not yet as editor
been entirely successful in following the above guidelines. I have, however,
tried to provide an example in an article in this issue by Bae, Hanna and
Lindamood. The article has the intriguing result that 40% of U.S. households
spent more than their takehome income in 1990. Most of the technical details
are in endnotes or the appendix. In another journal, this article might
have focused more on the methodology. The article has a unique approach
to a topic very relevant to most readers of this journal, however, and
the reduced emphasis on the statistical methodology should make it more
accessible to readers with limited statistical backgrounds. The result
that, all other things equal, college educated consumers are more likely
to overspend than less educated consumers, should provoke some controversy
and further research.
Some readers may object to my proposals
because of the decreased emphasis on research methodology. However, for
most articles, the technical details of methodology would still be available
in the appendix and/or endnotes, so that readers who were interested could
evaluate those details. In some cases, a research article might not use
the most sophisticated methods, but it might be accepted for publication,
if it offered a new and useful approach or insight into an important financial
management topic. The DeVaney article and the Chang and Lindamood articles
are good examples of articles that deliberately do not use the most advanced
statistical methods, although the dissertations upon which they are based
contain more sophisticated methods. The approaches to the topics are new
and very relevant to financial management. Both articles use a national
survey of U.S. households in 1983, with the same households interviewed
in 1986. The dataset provides the opportunity to examine changes in households
over time. The DeVaney article shows that even though most households had
an increase in real net worth between 1983 and 1986, the picture in terms
of percent of households meeting ratio guidelines was mixed. The Chang
and Lindamood article provides evidence of the substantial amount of year-to-year
income variability in U.S. households.
Other Articles in This Issue
The Edwards article presents empirical
analyses which identify five dimensions comprising compulsive spending:
Compulsion/Drive to Spend, Feelings About Shopping and Spending, Tendency
to Spend, Dysfunctional Spending, and Post-Purchase Guilt. Edward’s exploration
of this topic should stimulate further research into this important topic.
Prochaska-Cue uses empirical analysis to develop two scales of personal
financial management style: Analyzing and Holistic.
Men versus Women
The Lawrence, Thomasson, Wozniak
and Prawitz article contains research on another psychological topic –
factors related to spousal financial arguments. Budgeting practices were
related to less arguing, but penny-pinching practices seemed to be related
to more arguing. Fitzsimmons and Wakita found no difference between male
and female financial managers’ expectations of future financial condition,
but some differences in the determinants of expectations. Wilhelm, Varcoe
and Fridrich found some gender differences in the role of money beliefs
in predicting financial satisfaction and perceptions of financial progress.
The article by Hampton, Kitt, Greninger
and Bohman explores the decision to participate in a flexible spending
account. There are obvious economic benefits to such participation, but
their analyses also provides insight into factors related to whether consumers
will take the trouble to understand slightly complex financial management
devices. Stum, Bauer and Delaney analyze a large national sample of non-insitutionalized
disabled elderly. Some of their results may seem obvious, but can add ammunition
to the case for financial planning for retirement. Elderly relying only
on Social Security for income were very likely to be in poverty or near-poverty.
The Porter Model
Porter and Garman manage to explain
71% of variation in perceived financial well-being in their sample, which
is an impressive result. I am less enthusiastic about the usefulness of
the model than are the authors, but the article is an interesting extension
of the literature on satisfaction research.
Webster’s Dictionary of English
Usage. (1989). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.
Hanna, S. (1996). The editors role; The editors vision. Financial
Counseling and Planning, 4, 1-4.