Analysis: Are people 'functionally illiterate' about finances?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by TGregg, Nov 9, 2009.

  1. TGregg


    Oh yeah. And this bodes well for democrats:

    When it comes to financial matters, Americans are functionally illiterate.

    That's the growing consensus among policymakers and educators, many of whom contend that the country's lack of financial sophistication is one cause of its current economic problems.

    Advocates for financial literacy are seizing on the economic crisis as an opportunity to confront the issue directly. Thanks to the recession, they're getting a response from governments, nonprofits, schools, and employers.

    Perhaps that's because there is plenty of evidence that, when it comes to money, Americans really don't know what they're doing. The recession has produced thousands of anecdotes of Americans buried in debt, stuck in foolish mortgages, or stung by huge investment losses.

    Those misfortunes can strike people with PhDs in economics, of course. But surveys show Americans also fail to grasp important abstract ideas about money.

    Boomers Fail Finance 101

    Take the concept of compound interest, the notion that interest isn't a one-time event. It builds on itself over time. That compounding is the bane of those in credit-card or mortgage debt, but it benefits long-term investors. When the University of Michigan 2004 Health & Retirement Survey asked a simple math problem requiring a knowledge of compound interest, only 18% of baby boomers got it right.

    Another basic concept for investors is diversification. Only about half of respondents correctly said that investing in a pool of stocks, or a mutual fund, is safer than investing in just one stock. And, says Wharton School of Business professor Olivia Mitchell, since the question was posed as a true-or-false statement, many of the correct respondents were probably just guessing.

    Some financial blind spots have direct consequences. Women, who live longer than men, are more likely to underestimate their predicted life spans. In retirement, Mitchell says, "that puts them at much greater risk for running out of money."

    Read the rest at:
  2. I think way too many people in the world are financially illiterate. Nobody cares more about your money than you do, so everyone should be educated with at least the basics. Canada just passed a measure to teach grade 7 and grade 8 students basic financial concepts which is a long overdue change. In my opinion, it is just as important as math, english, science, etc.
  3. It has always been in the best interest of the politicos that we the public be generally ignorant about all things financial.
  4. Lucrum


    Yes, the vast majority anyway.