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July 07, 2011


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I completely agree with you. Granted, your statement at the end that these questions are "pretty easy" is relative as you proved in your article, however for us readers here on Free Money Finance, I would assume that the answers to all three of these questions seem fairly basic. I work in a large public university in the student financial office, and I don't have encouraging news for our next generation of college grads either. I have been promoting our financial literacy program for a long time now, and it really is depressing to see the level (or complete lack therof) financial knowledge among college students. I've long pushed for a financial literacy or personal finance class to be added as a requirement for graduation with no luck, but I am still hopeful and would love to hear if anyone else has ever considered this.

Interesting test. Of course the first 2 could be termed as math type questions as much as finance, however, they should still be easily answered.

It does seem as if we need to educate ourselves more because the dynamics of this country are changing. I think people are fooling themselves if they believe they will have the same standards of living in retirement if they do not make some tough decisions now.

Fifth graders should be able to answer these. Sheesh.

Paul --

So I guess most people aren't smarter than a fifth grader, huh? ;-)

While the first two questions are math questions and has a definite answer, the answer to the third question is actually "it depends". If you know what you're doing, your money is both safer and will provide a higher return in a single company than in mutual funds. That's how Warren Buffet made his fortune.

Good post. The engineer in me wants to point out the following, though:
"yes, it's impossible for 70% of the people to be above the median in anything"
It's completely possible when the total amount of people surveyed is less than the total amount of all people.

Therefore, it is possible to achieve 100% above median, so long as those surveyed are a smaller subset of the overall population; i.e. 2 surveyed out of a population of 100, where the 2 surveyed happen to be in the 75th percentile.

Poker Meister --

I was referring to the total population when I made that comment...

mind boggling. i need to become a financial planner i guess - i'd be a millionaire. now if i can only convince everyone to hire me

While surprising that most respondents (70%) got at least one question wrong (we have a sad state of financial education in this country), the bigger statement is that most people overvalue their own expertise. I'm not sure whether it's a product of our "everyone is special" upbringing, but I can't believe that 70% of people "believe they are above-median with regard to financial knowledge".

For all I know, perhaps there is some truth in that statement; didn't I read somewhere that around 30% of lottery players believe that the lottery is a valid form of securing their retirements?

[Face palm]

This is proof positive why the vast majority of Americans have no business managing their retirement money. It could be perceived as an argument for defined-BENEFIT pension plans except that the "professional" investors running many of those plans are just as inept.

It is also hopeless to try and teach personal financial management at the high school level because students just can't relate to the lessons and forget them or simply do not value what is being taught because it is not yet relevant to them.

We have no one to count on but ourselves to become financially literate and we are letting ourselves down!

These are the "greater fools" that allow bubbles to happen.

I'm not surprised that most people are bad at math.

And every single man I've ever met thinks he is way smarter financially than most people. Even if he is broke, in debt, bankrupt, whatever--they all think they're financial geniuses. Human nature, I guess.

I totally agree with STRONGside's idea. I think basic skills like balancing a checkbook, creating and adhering to a family budget, understanding debt and interest rates, etc should be taught at the high school level as part of home economics. It seems like these are basic skills that every American should have (or should at least be taught) but clearly every American does not have (and is not taught).

Then, in college, cover concepts like risk and return, inflation, asset allocation, investment management, etc. These will be critical for college graudates that have any significant amount of money to invest.

This is just plain depressing to read.

Stupis is as stupid does.

Morten's right in saying these are actually very easy arithmetic questions. It's not so much financial education as math education that's lacking. If a person doesn't understand basic arithmetic, no amount of teaching him or her to balance checkbooks, construct budgets, and think about debt and interest rates is going to promote understanding of personal finance.

It's sad.

Viewed from this point of view, y'know...we could infer that the late, great real estate bubble resulted not from greed but from plug-poor public education. As a nation, we're reaping what we sowed.

Truly sad. Those are really basic questions that everyone should know.

It is shocking how little some people understand about basic math but it is scary that these people are expected to understand complicated financial products and make the right choices.
Finance companies take advantage of this ignorance all the time though they would never admit to such a thing.

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