How Do Americans Fare in Financial Capability?

(January 2010) How equipped Americans are with the knowledge and skills they need to make financial decisions determine retirement options, homeownership, college education, and more. The National Financial Capability Survey, released in December 2009 by the FINRA Foundation, is the first of its kind in the United States. The survey explores how Americans manage their resources and how they make financial decisions. As Americans grapple with the current recession, the results are troubling: Only 41 percent of parents have set aside money for their children’s college education, the majority of Americans don’t have an emergency fund for financial emergencies and are not prepared for retirement, and more than one in five respondents use high-cost borrowing methods such as payday loans or pawn shops.

Annamaria Lusardi has studied financial literacy and financial capability in the United States and around the world. She is a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, a regular contributor to the International Business Times, and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. In this interview, she discusses how the financial landscape has become more complex, how Americans score on financial capability and literacy, and the personal implications of low financial capability.