Can You Pass a Basic Test on Finances? Probably Not

The vast majority of Americans answered barely half of the questions correctly
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2016 4:56 PM CDT
Can You Pass a Basic Test on Finances? Probably Not
FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 file photo, the newest Monopoly token, a cat, rests on the game board at Hasbro Inc. headquarters, in Pawtucket, R.I. Hasbro is reporting their fourth quarter 2012 earnings on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. (   (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

When it comes to finances, Americans are doing generally better than during the recession. But when it comes to financial literacy, the picture is grim. According to a new survey of 27,564 Americans called the National Financial Capability Study that was put out by the FINRA Foundation, roughly two-thirds of Americans aren't able to correctly answer four out of five basic questions about finances. (You can take the test here.) The kinds of things most Americans don't know? That 20% interest on a $1,000 loan compounded annually results in $200 in interest at the end of the year. And the one that tripped up nearly three in four Americans surveyed? As interest rates rise, bond prices fall.

Even worse, as Fortune reports, the percentage of people who are able to pass the test by answering four or five out of the five questions correctly has fallen since the financial crisis, from 42% in 2009 to 37% in 2015—even though the crisis was largely characterized as a warning to better understand basic finances. The good news is that Americans as a whole are feeling less strain financially, with 46% of people having emergency funds in 2015 compared to 35% in 2009. But a huge number of people, including African-Americans, Hispanics, women, millennials, and people without a high school education, are actually worse off than before the recession. And racial discrepancies persist: A whopping 39% of blacks have resorted to high-cost borrowing from, say, pawn shops, compared to 21% of whites and Asians. (This study finds that motivation is more important than math when it comes to successfully tackling debt.)

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