It’s been a decade since the Great Recession’s upheaval, and while some measures of Americans’ economic well-being have recovered like the unemployment rate, their financial literacy isn’t one of them.
Between 2009 and 2018, there was an 8% slip in the amount of people who could correctly answer most questions about interest rates, inflation, bond prices, financial risk and mortgage rates — from 42% to 34%.
That “clear trend of declining financial literacy” is one of the worrying signals in a three-year study from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, the educational arm of the nonprofit organization regulating the brokerage industry.
Digging into American attitudes about their money by surveying more than 27,000 people, the study says all demographics are faring better financially than they were in 2009, but the picture is much rosier from some than others.
There is a “widening gap in financial capability” between younger Americans, low-income earners and African-Americans and their older, high-earning counterparts — and financial literacy is just one aspect of the divide.
The study found:
• People ages 18- to 34-years-old had the sharpest drop in their ability to answer four of five financial literacy questions correctly over the years, declining from 30% to 17%. By contrast, 51% of study participants ages 55 and above answered four or five questions correctly in 2009 and 48% did the same in 2018.
• Americans tended to have “inflated self-perceptions of their financial knowledge.” 71% of participants gave themselves a high score when assessing their money savvy in 2018, up from 67% in 2009.
• 49% of people who had received at least 10 hours of financial education said they spent less than they made. 36% of people who received less than 10 hours on the subject said they spent less than their income.