10/5/2013 – Financial Literacy, Beyond the Classroom (New York Times)

Even if we grade on a very generous curve, many Americans flunk when it comes to financial literacy. Consider this three-item quiz:

Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2 percent a year. After five years, how much do you think you would have if you left the money to grow? More than $102, exactly $102 or less than $102?

• Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1 percent a year and that inflation was 2 percent. After one year, would you be able to buy more than, the same as or less than you could today with the money?

• Do you think this statement is true or false: “Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund”?

Anyone with even a basic understanding of compound interest, inflation and diversification should know that the answers to these questions are “more than,” “less than” and “false.” Yet in a survey of Americans over age 50 conducted by the economists Annamaria Lusardi of George Washington University and Olivia S. Mitchell of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, only a third could answer all three questions correctly.

Read the full article at the New York Times.

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