Americans score poor marks when it comes to financial literacy. And women lag behind men — which could have troubling consequences for their retirement and overall financial health.
These were the takeaways from two recent studies. The first, from researchers at the University of Georgia and Kansas State University, analyzed data from the FINRA 2012 National Financial Capability Study, a survey of more than 25,000 US adults. The researchers found that women across age groups answered fewer questions correctly than did men on core financial concepts such as interest rates, inflation, and risk. (You can test your own knowledge here.)
The study, presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Financial Services last fall, also found women lagged behind men in financial capability, a measure that compares objective with subjective knowledge. (Subjective knowledge was measured by asking respondents how they would assess their overall financial knowledge.) Men were far more likely to score high on both the objective and subjective measures than were women.
Financial literacy is important because it is linked to actions such as planning for retirement, saving for education or a home, and other important goals.
“Combining financial knowledge with confidence — that’s where action comes from,” says study co-author Cliff Robb, associate professor of personal financial planning at Kansas State University. “If people are hesitant — if they’re not confident — they are not going to act on their knowledge.”
Women are also more financially vulnerable than men, as measured by a question asking respondents if they could come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose in the next month. (Forty-four percent of women said they “probably” or “certainly” would not be able to, compared with 34 percent of men.)
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