Aversa, Associated Press, April 9, 2008
Young people's financial know-how has gone from bad to worse.
High school seniors, on average, answered correctly only 48.3
percent of questions about personal finance and economics,
according to a nationwide survey released Wednesday by the
Federal Reserve. That was even lower than the 52.4 percent in
the previous survey in 2006 and marked the worst score out of
the six surveys conducted so far.
With home foreclosures at record highs, Fed Chairman Ben
Bernanke stressed in a speech that young people must sharpen
their financial knowledge so they are in a better position to
make sound investment decisions throughout their lives.
"The financial preparedness of our nation's youth is essential
to their well-being and of vital importance to our economic
future," Bernanke said at the Fed event on financial literacy.
"In light of the problems that have arisen in the subprime
mortgage market, we are reminded of how critically important it
is for individuals to become financially literate at an early
age so that they are better prepared to make decisions and
navigate an increasingly complex financial marketplace," the Fed
When the housing market collapsed, home values fell and interest
rates rose. That especially clobbered people with tarnished
credit or low incomes holding more risky "subprime" mortgages.
As these homeowners found it increasingly difficult or possible
to make their monthly mortgage payments, home foreclosures took
off, some lenders went out of business and financial
institutions suffered multibillion losses as mortgage-backed
Problems spread into other areas, affecting more creditworthy
borrowers. And the housing, credit and financial slumps are
threatening to push the economy into a deep recession.
Bernanke, in his remarks, didn't talk about the state of the
economy or offer clues about the Fed's next move on interest
Many economists believe the Fed will lower rates later this
month as part of a multi-pronged approach to bolstering the
economy and trying to ease the credit crunch.
In this year's survey, only 16.8 percent correctly answered that
stocks likely would offer the higher growth over 18 years of
saving for a child's education, while 37.3 percent thought a
U.S. savings bond — one of the most conservative investments —
would offer the highest growth.
Nearly 53 percent said they would have no liability if their
credit card was stolen and a thief ran up $1,000 worth of debt.
(Liability is limited to $50 after the credit-card issuer is
notified.) Only 13 percent knew they might have to be
responsible for $50.
"The survey demonstrated that graduating high school seniors
continue to struggle with financial literacy basics," said Lewis
Mandell, professor of finance and managerial economics at SUNY
Buffalo School of Management.
The latest survey — the sixth — was released by the Federal
Reserve. The surveys, done every two years, were sponsored by
the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, which
wants students to have the skills to be financially competent.
College students' financial literacy also was tested this year.
They answered 62 percent of the questions correctly.
The surveys were paid for by the Merrill Lynch Foundation.
On the Net: Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy:
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