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Americans' Financial Capability

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  • Annamaria Lusardi

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Annamaria Lusardi, 2011. "Americans' Financial Capability," NBER Working Papers 17103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17103 Note: AG
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2011. "Financial literacy and retirement planning in the United States," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(04), pages 509-525, October.
    2. Annamaria Lusardi & Daniel Schneider & Peter Tufano, 2011. "Financially Fragile Households: Evidence and Implications," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 42(1 (Spring), pages 83-150.
    3. 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.
    4. van Rooij, Maarten & Lusardi, Annamaria & Alessie, Rob, 2011. "Financial literacy and stock market participation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, pages 449-472.
    5. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2008. "Planning and Financial Literacy: How Do Women Fare?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 413-417.
    6. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Baby Boomer retirement security: The roles of planning, financial literacy, and housing wealth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 205-224, January.
    7. Annamaria Lusardi & Pierre-Carl Michaud & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2011. "Optimal Financial Literacy and Saving for Retirement," Working Papers 905, RAND Corporation.
    8. Lusardi, Annamaria & Tufano, Peter, 2015. "Debt literacy, financial experiences, and overindebtedness," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(04), pages 332-368, October.
    9. Christelis, Dimitris & Jappelli, Tullio & Padula, Mario, 2010. "Cognitive abilities and portfolio choice," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 18-38, January.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2017. "How Ordinary Consumers Make Complex Economic Decisions: Financial Literacy and Retirement Readiness," Quarterly Journal of Finance (QJF), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 7(03), pages 1-31, September.
    13. Annamarie Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2005. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," Working Papers wp108, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    14. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2002. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," NBER Working Papers 8920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Annamaria Lusardi & Jason Beeler, 2006. "Savings Between Cohorts: The Role of Planning," Working Papers wp122, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    16. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Exponential Growth Bias and Household Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2807-2849, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2014. "The Economic Importance of Financial Literacy: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 5-44.
    2. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell & Vilsa Curto, 2012. "Financial Sophistication in the Older Population," NBER Working Papers 17863, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kiliyanni, Abdul Latheef & Sivaraman, Sunitha, 2016. "The perception-reality gap in financial literacy: Evidence from the most literate state in India," International Review of Economics Education, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 47-64.
    4. Juan Sanchez & Jose Mustre-del-Rio & Kartik Athreya, 2016. "The Persistence of Financial Distress," 2016 Meeting Papers 1424, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2011. "Financial literacy around the world: an overview," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, pages 497-508.
    6. Esteban Gómez González & Nancy Zamudio Gómez, 2012. "Las capacidades financieras de la población colombiana," BORRADORES DE ECONOMIA 009828, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA.
    7. Annamaria Lusardi, 2015. "Risk Literacy," Italian Economic Journal: A Continuation of Rivista Italiana degli Economisti and Giornale degli Economisti, Springer;Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), pages 5-23.
    8. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2014. "The Economic Importance of Financial Literacy: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 5-44.
    9. Sandro Ambuehl & B. Douglas Bernheim & Annamaria Lusardi, 2014. "A Method for Evaluating the Quality of Financial Decision Making, with an Application to Financial Education," NBER Working Papers 20618, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Anna Kaliciak & Radoslaw Kurach & Walid Merouani, 2016. "Who is Eager to Save for Retirement – the Cross-Country Evidence," LWS Working papers 23, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    11. French, Declan & McKillop, Donal, 2016. "Financial literacy and over-indebtedness in low-income households," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 1-11.
    12. Estaban Gómez González & Nancy Zamudio Gómez, 2012. "Las capacidades financieras de la población colombiana," Borradores de Economia 725, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
    13. 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.
    14. Robert L. Clark & Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2014. "Financial Knowledge and 401(k) Investment Performance," NBER Working Papers 20137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Agnew Stephen & Cameron-Agnew Trudi, 2015. "The Influence of Gender and Household Culture on Financial Literacy Knowledge; Attitudes and Behaviour," Journal of Financial Management, Markets and Institutions, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 1, pages 31-50, June.
    16. Annamaria Lusardi, 2012. "Numeracy, financial literacy, and financial decision-making," NBER Working Papers 17821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. repec:spr:patien:v:10:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s40271-016-0205-9 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance

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