According to researchers who study such things, there’s a direct connection between financial literacy—that is, an understanding of the basics of personal finance—and financial health. People who are well informed about money are far more likely to be successful savers and investors, including having healthy emergency funds and strong financial plans. You might think that would be good news for a large percentage of Americans who, according to a new study from research firm Raddon, consider themselves to have a good working knowledge of the world of money.
Wrong. The problem is that people’s confidence about their money knowledge often does not reflect their actual knowledge when put to the test. In fact, the study demonstrates a huge gap between what people think they know about money and what they’re able to demonstrate in the real world.
That’s bad news if you’re one of these people (find out below)…but the good news is, the level of your money knowledge isn’t set by your genes or your history—you can easily increase your financial literacy, and therefore give yourself a better shot at financial security and success, by taking a course or two or reading some books. The first step, though, is to determine whether you’re one of those who actually know their stuff…or one of the multitudes who only think they do…
Study finding: 44% of us think we’re “extremely” or “very” financially literate—and in most age groups, an even higher percentage. The only age group displaying notable modesty about financial acumen in the study turned out to be Generation-Xers, currently age 39 to 52, with only 37% of them calling themselves extremely or very financially literate. Our high regard for our financial knowledge only got higher from there: 44% of millennials (under age 39) called themselves extremely or very financially literate and 45% of baby boomers (age 53 to 72)…and 52% of “traditionalists,” meaning people age 73 or older.
Study finding: Testing reveals that every generation has an inflated sense of financial literacy. When given a test of basic financial competence on a wide range of subjects, vast numbers of respondents were proven to be overconfident. Fewer than half, overall, earned a passing grade, and a miniscule 6% performed well enough to earn an A grade.
What does this mean for you? The more you know about your own financial situation and the world of finance in general, the more likely you are to maintain a financially sound household. Consider taking a free online quiz to get a realistic feel for your true level of financial literacy. If you do as well as you’d like to, great. If not, look for financial courses given in your area…or online…or at least head for the library or a bookstore to pick up some reading on the subject. Be sure you include, at a minimum, the topics of saving…investing…credit and borrowing…and retirement planning.