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Americans' Financial Capability

  • Annamaria Lusardi

This paper examines Americans' financial capability, using data from a new survey. Financial capability is measured in terms of how well people make ends meet, plan ahead, choose and manage financial products, and possess the skills and knowledge to make financial decisions. The findings reported in this work paint a troubling picture of the state of financial capability in the United States. The majority of Americans do not plan for predictable events such as retirement or children's college education. Most importantly, people do not make provisions for unexpected events and emergencies, leaving themselves and the economy exposed to shocks. To understand financial capability, it is important to look not only at assets but also at debt and debt management, as an increasingly large portion of the population carry debt. In managing debt, Americans engage in behaviors that can generate large expenses, such as sizable interest payments and fees. Moreover, more than one in five Americans has used alternative (and often costly) borrowing methods (payday loans, advances on tax refunds, pawn shops, etc.) in the past five years. The most worrisome finding is that many people do not seem well informed and knowledgeable about their terms of borrowing; a sizeable group does not know the terms of their mortgages or the interest rates they pay on their loans. Finally, the majority of Americans lack basic numeracy and knowledge of fundamental economic principles such as the workings of inflation, risk diversification, and the relationship between asset prices and interest rates.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17103.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17103.

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Date of creation: Jun 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17103
Note: AG
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  1. Annamarie Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2005. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," Working Papers wp108, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  2. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Exponential Growth Bias and Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2807-2849, December.
  3. Annamaria Lusardi & Peter Tufano, 2009. "Debt Literacy, Financial Experiences, and Overindebtedness," NBER Working Papers 14808, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2008. "Planning and financial literacy: How do women fare?," CFS Working Paper Series 2008/03, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  5. Maarten van Rooij & Annamaria Lusardi & Rob Alessi, 2007. "Financial literacy and stock market participation," DNB Working Papers 146, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
  6. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2011. "Financial Literacy and Retirement Planning in the United States," CeRP Working Papers 107, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  7. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2009. "How Ordinary Consumers Make Complex Economic Decisions: Financial Literacy and Retirement Readiness," NBER Working Papers 15350, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Christelis, Dimitris & Jappelli, Tullio & Padula, Mario, 2010. "Cognitive abilities and portfolio choice," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 18-38, January.
  9. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2006. "Baby Boomer Retirement Security: The Roles of Planning, Financial Literacy, and Housing Wealth," Working Papers wp114, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  10. Annamaria Lusardi & Daniel Schneider & Peter Tufano, 2011. "Financially Fragile Households: Evidence and Implications," CeRP Working Papers 116, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
  11. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1007-1047.
  12. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2002. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," NBER Working Papers 8920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Annamaria Lusardi & Pierre-Carl Michaud & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2011. "Optimal Financial Literacy and Saving for Retirement," Working Papers 905, RAND Corporation.
  14. Annamaria Lusardi, 2010. "Financial Capability in the United States: Consumer Decision-Making and the Role of Social Security," Working Papers wp226, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  15. Annamaria Lusardi & Jason Beeler, 2006. "Savings Between Cohorts: The Role of Planning," Working Papers wp122, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  16. Annamaria Lusardi, 2008. "Household Saving Behavior: The Role of Financial Literacy, Information, and Financial Education Programs," NBER Working Papers 13824, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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