SILVER SPRING, Md. -- A new National Foundation for Credit Counseling consumer financial literacy survey reveals there are serious gaps in the knowledge and desire to learn responsible financial management.
Conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, the survey is designed to provide a benchmark of what Americans know about their finances and their receptiveness to professional financial counsel and education.
Overall findings indicate that Americans are not universally following even some basic tenets of sound financial management, such as tracking expenses, ordering credit reports, and managing credit card debt. Many are interested in getting help, but don't know where to find what they need.
-Only a minority (39%) keep close track of expenses, and this does not vary by gender, age or income.
-Less than half of Americans have ordered their credit report--despite the fact that it is free and there is a growing number of identity theft threats.
-Nearly four in 10 Americans (38%) do not pay their credit cards in full each month.
-Two-thirds of Americans say they learned a great deal or fair amount about financial issues, such as managing money, balancing a checkbook and building their savings, at home versus in school.
-Younger Americans, African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are most interested in financial education and advice.
-One-third of all respondents do not know where to turn for financial advice.
Many continue to rely more on family, friends and other important role models, as well as co-workers for financial advice. Financial counseling professionals believe that while family members are sources of good advice and smart practices, they may not be fully aware of constantly changing economic conditions, new federal and state regulatory developments, or possess the ability to intercede with creditors in particularly dire situations.
In response to recent economic trends and confirmed by the survey results, the NFCC unveiled plans to place greater emphasis on more proactive initiatives aimed at financial literacy, while still continuing to provide services to consumers who find themselves in serious financial difficulties.
"More American consumers are in need of financial education than ever before. More expansive and creative financial products have been a blessing to many, but have created real problems and barriers for others," said Susan C. Keating, NFCC president/CEO. "The Princeton survey affirms there is a real need for education and information, particularly among young adults, African-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans. We have a 'teachable moment' before us and it makes perfect sense for NFCC members to play a leadership role in our communities, and expand services directed towards prevention efforts."
To that end, the NFCC has unveiled a three-year strategic plan with core strategies oriented toward addressing prevention-based financial education, new products and services, advocacy for consumer-friendly financial legislation at the state and federal levels and a consumer financial membership program.