41% give themselves C or lower in personal finance

April 1, 2014

WASHINGTON (4/2/14)--As National Financial Literacy Month begins this week, a new survey shows American consumers admit they need the type of guidance credit unions can provide. Forty-one percent of adults gave themselves a grade of C, D or F on their knowledge of personal finance in the 2014 Financial Literacy Survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).

The survey was conducted online in March among more than 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and over.  In its eighth year, the survey provides a snapshot of the American consumer's level of knowledge as it relates to financial literacy, as well as behavioral and attitudinal trends associated with personal finance.  The 2014 survey was sponsored by Experian Consumer Services.

"This year's survey once again confirms what we already know: the need for financial education is great," said Susan C. Keating, NFCC president/CEO.  "Without a solid foundation on which to base everyday financial decisions, Americans are on a slippery slope as they begin to rebuild their financial lives following the Great Recession."

Significant gaps of personal financial knowledge revealed in the survey include budgeting, saving, and understanding credit reports and credit scores.

Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults, the highest percentage in six years, admit to not having a budget.  Consumers appear reluctant to maintain budgets, which could explain why about one in three adults (34%) indicated their household carries credit card debt from month-to-month, with 15%, or more than 35 million people, admitting to rolling over $2,500 or more monthly.

When asked which areas of personal finance are most worrisome, the top concerns were evenly divided between insufficient "rainy day" savings for an emergency (16%) and retiring without having enough money set aside (16%).  However, the proportion of adults who are spending less when compared with the previous year continues to decline to a low of 29% in 2014 from a high in 2009 of 57%. 

Most adults have not reviewed their credit score (60%) or their credit report (65%) within the past 12 months. Close to one in four adults who did not order their credit report in the past 12 months (23%) indicated that they already knew their credit score, so they didn't think they needed their credit report.

Guide to Money--Get Ahead of the Game handbook

Helping Members Reach Savings Goals course online

Build a Basic Budget--The 5-Step Spending Plan electronic member seminar kit