A new study finds that young Americans could use some help when it comes to managing their money.
Out of these three questions measuring basic financial knowledge, the average respondent could answer only 1.8 correctly—and only a quarter got all three right. (Answers are at the bottom of this story.)
(1) Do you think that the following statement is true or false? Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.
(2) Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2% per year. After 5 years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow: More than $102, exactly $102, or less than $102?
(3) Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1% per year and inflation was 2% per year. After 1 year, would you be able to buy more than, exactly the same as, or less than today with the money in this account?
Perhaps most troubling was what the research showed about how respondents have actually been managing their money. The average young person surveyed showed responsible behavior in only one of three categories: Paying off debts on time, budgeting and living within one’s means, and having any retirement savings at all. Only 2% of all respondents showed responsible behavior in all three categories.
Furthermore, the study—led by SDSU professors Ning Tang, Andrew Baker, and Paula Peter—found that there was little to no effect of financial knowledge on financial behavior. That is, young people manage money poorly, even when they know better.
But there is hope for America’s youth, says Tang.
“Our findings suggest that if you want to improve your own financial behavior, the best thing you can do is be open to the influences of others,” says Tang.
Though the study did not examine the influence of peers, its results suggest both family and financial professionals could play an important role in improving young people’s financial habits. The researchers found that being close with parents was correlated with better money management among women—and that higher self-reported levels of being “thorough” and “careful” was correlated with better financial behavior among men. Among both sexes, higher self-reported levels of being “self-disciplined” was correlated with better money habits.
That suggests educators and financial planners should focus on getting young people to be more self-aware in general and more motivated to improve their organizational habits across the board—not just when it comes to finances, says Tang.
“It can be helpful just to be more aware of your own psychological barriers,” she says.
One thing the study did not explore much is the cause of gender differences in the results. For example, the authors did not control for whether parents tend to treat daughters differently than sons.
And the answers to the questions above? They are: (1) false; (2) more than $102; and (3) less than today.
Science says you don't need one, but many are unforgettable
From the Thinker to Jay Leno, some of history’s most noteworthy figures have been defined by the outcropping of skin and bone that bottoms out a face. According to new research, chins are not a biological necessity—but we’re still very fond of them. See if you can match the distinctive chin to its corresponding celebrity.
These questions stump most Americans with college degrees.
Following are three questions. If you’ve been around the financial block a few times, you’ll probably find all of them easy to answer. Most Americans didn’t get them right, though, reflecting poor financial literacy. That’s a shame — because, unsurprisingly, the more you know about financial matters and money management, the better you can do at saving and investing, and the more comfortable your retirement will probably be.
Here are the questions — see if you know the answers.
- Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2% per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow? (A) More than $102. (B) Exactly $102. (C) Less than $102.
- Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1% per year and inflation was 2% per year. After one year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account? (A) More than today. (B) Exactly the same. (C) Less than today.
- Please tell me whether this statement is true or false: Buying a single company’s stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.
Did you get them all right? In case you’re not sure, the answers are, respectively, A, C, and False.
The questions originated about a decade ago, with Wharton business school professor and executive director of the Pension Research Council Olivia Mitchell, and George Washington School of Business professor and academic director of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center Annamaria Lusardi. In a quest to learn more about wealth inequality, they’ve been asking Americans and others these questions for years, while studying how the results correlate with factors such as retirement savings. The questions are designed to shed light on whether various populations “have the fundamental knowledge of finance needed to function as effective economic decision makers.”
They first surveyed Americans aged 50 and older and found that only half of them answered the first two questions correctly. Only a third got all three right. As they asked the same questions of the broader American population and people outside the U.S., too, the results were generally similar: “[W]e found widespread financial illiteracy even in relatively rich countries with well-developed financial markets such as Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, Italy, France, Australia and New Zealand. Performance was markedly worse in Russia and Romania.”
If you think that better-educated folks would do well on the quiz, you’d be wrong. They do better, but even among Americans with college degrees, the majority (55.7%) didn’t get all three questions right (versus 81% for those with high school degrees). What Mitchell and Lusardi found was that those most likely to do well on the quiz were those who are affluent. They attribute a full third of America’s wealth inequality to “the financial-knowledge gap separating the well-to-do and the less so.”
This is consistent with other research, such as that of University of Massachusetts graduate student Joosuk Sebastian Chae, whose research has found that those with higher-than-average wealth accumulation exhibit advanced financial literacy levels.
The importance of financial literacy
This is all important stuff, because those who don’t understand basic financial concepts, such as how money grows, how inflation affects us, and how diversification can reduce risk, are likely to make suboptimal financial decisions throughout their lives, ending up with poorer results as they approach and enter retirement. Consider the inflation issue, for example: If you don’t appreciate how inflation shrinks the value of money over time, you might be thinking that your expected income stream in retirement, from Social Security and/or a pension, will be enough to live on. Factoring in inflation, though, you might understand that your expected $30,000 per year could have the purchasing power of only $14,000 in 25 years.
Mitchell and Lusardi note that financial knowledge is correlated with better results: “Our analysis of financial knowledge and investor performance showed that more knowledgeable individuals invest in more sophisticated assets, suggesting that they can expect to earn higher returns on their retirement savings accounts.” Thus, better financial literacy can help people avoid credit card debt, take advantage of refinancing opportunities, optimize Social Security benefits, avoid predatory lenders, avoid financial scams and those pushing poor investments, and plan and save for retirement.
Even if you got all three questions correct, you can probably improve your financial condition and ultimate performance by continuing to learn. Many of the most successful investors are known to be voracious readers, eager to keep learning even more.
Take our quiz to find out
People often speculate about their personality types. But where do you truly fall on the spectrum between introvert and extrovert—and what does that say about how you live your life? We talked to Susan Cain, author of QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and co-founder of Quiet Revolution, to assemble a list of telling questions.
This quiz was adapted from Cain’s New York Times bestselling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.
Read next: 10 Tips Every Introvert Should Know
A quiz that'll test your smarts on Friday, Keyboard Cat, David After Dentist and more
(Credit for all images: Youtube)
In Ohio, state officials are trying to stop tax identity theft by requiring some taxpayers to fill out an online quiz before accepting their returns.
State governments around the country are struggling with tax return identity theft, a problem so rampant that even TurboTax had to temporarily suspend electronic state filing. In Ohio, where 58,000 fraudulent tax returns have been intercepted this tax season, state officials have taken the drastic step of requiring some taxpayers to fill out an online quiz before accepting their returns.
“The Ohio Department of Taxation has intercepted more than $250 million of fraudulent refund claims this year,” the agency said on its website. That’s a huge increase from 10,000 fraudulent returns seeking $8 million last year, according to the Dayton Daily News.
Once a computer determines that something is suspicious about the return, taxpayers are directed toward the “quiz,” which will look a lot like the out-of-wallet challenge questions posed by AnnualCreditReport.com and other sites seeking to authenticate consumers. According to taxpayers who say they’ve been challenged, the questions ask users to confirm streets they’ve lived on, cars they’ve owned, and so on.
“This is changing daily, but as we are still relatively early in the filing season, the Ohio Department of Taxation is opting to be more stringent with the screening of returns,” said Gary Gudmundson, the agency’s communications director. “Of the 1.2 million returns requesting a refund, 49% of those filers/taxpayers … have been directed to take the Identity Confirmation Quiz.”
Users directed to the quiz can expect delays in receiving their tax refunds; how long is unclear. Those who cannot correctly answer the questions can expect additional delays. They will be directed to telephone operators for additional verification.
“Of those who’ve taken the quiz, 95% passed. Those who don’t are asked to submit documentation (copy of driver’s license, birth certificate, utility bills, previous year(s) tax returns, etc.) to prove they are who they say they are,” said Gudmundson.
One user who said she failed to answer correctly wasn’t immediately booted from the system.
“Did it and apparently answered one wrong but they give you another chance,” she wrote on Facebook.
Given the heightened concern about identity theft and tax returns, some residents are worried the challenge questions are part of a scam. Ohio tax officials are telling taxpayers via regular mail that they must complete the quiz.
“If you get a letter, yes it is from the state, not a con,” wrote one Ohio resident on her Facebook page.
For an identity thief to steal your tax return, they need a lot of personal information, including your Social Security number, which can be used to perpetrate all sorts of fraud, even opening new accounts in your name and wrecking your credit in the process. You can spot identity theft quickly by regularly monitoring your credit. You can get your credit reports for free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com and you can get your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.
More on Income Tax:
Warning: quiz may cause wanderlust.
Correction appended, March 11
The following home values are based on current real estate listings, as well as completed 2014 sale prices.
Correction: The original version of this story, based on information provided by real estate agencies, incorrectly identified the homes listed by Christie’s International Real Estate as being sold in 2014. Those homes are still on the market.
We talked to experts at the Center for Internet Addiction to offer an instant (but unofficial) diagnosis.
This quiz was adapted from the Center for Internet Addiction’s Internet Addiction Test.
Beyonce vs. Jay-Z, Katy vs. Rihanna, Kobe vs. Lebron and more.
Figures based on 2014 estimated earnings, as listed on the Forbes Celebrity 100.
All images by Getty Images