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By Brad Sherman

For years, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has tracked American personal finance knowledge through a survey about saving habits and basic financial principles. FINRA recently released the results of its 2015 survey, which includes the fact that only 37% of those who took the survey could answer four of the five questions on a basic financial literacy quiz. Four out of five is FINRA’s baseline for high financial literacy. Back in 2009, 42% of the respondents were considered to meet this level of financial literacy. (If you’re curious, you can take the quiz here.)

We’ve previously written about biases in financial habits and the desolate state of personal finance education in high school and college, and this study re-confirms our suspicions. Way less than half of the American population has a sufficient understanding of the basic ideas necessary for successful saving and financial planning! That is nearing crisis levels.


Make no mistake–an ignorance of personal finance, while probably unintentional, has serious consequences. Just over half of respondents said they are worried about running out of money in retirement, only one in five are willing to take risks when investing, and 57% say they set long-term financial goals. But, when taken together with those statistics, the most concerning part is that 76% have a high self-assessment of their financial literacy.

As finance writer Jeff Sommer points out in his recent column, this means that Americans don’t know very much about personal finance and saving, but think they do. The positive self-perception is also the only figure to have significantly increased since 2009.

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