How financially literate are you?

Farm Forum

April is almost over which means National Financial Literacy Month is almost over too. It is a month long campaign to raise awareness to manage your money, lower your debt, and save for the future.

In recognition of 2013’s Financial Literacy Month, the National Foundation of Credit Counseling just released the results of its seventh annual Consumer Financial Literacy Survey, which tracks Americans’ attitudes and behaviors related to personal finance.

NFCC spokesperson Gail Cunningham said, “On a positive note, by certain measures a large percentage of Americans do feel they’re getting a better handle on controlling their finances,” she said. “On the downside, however, many people give themselves poor grades on their knowledge of personal finance, and worry that they’re not saving enough for a rainy day – or for retirement.”

Here are some of the survey’s key findings:

· 40 percent of adults have a budget and closely track their spending. In other words, 60 percent don’t use a budget.

· Only 32 percent of those polled spend less on living expenses now than they did last year – a steady decline since 2009’s 59 percent level. At the same time, 27 percent said they now spend more than they did a year ago.

· About 71 percent pay all bills on time and have no debts in collection – a 7 percent improvement from 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adults who do not pay all bills on time has decreased, from 33 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2013.

· 37 percent carry credit card debt from month to month – a 7 percent decrease since the question was first asked in 2009.

· Insufficient savings tops the list of financial worries, with 43 percent most worried that they don’t have enough emergency savings, and 38 percent worried they’ll retire with inadequate savings. In fact, a whopping 31 percent say they currently save nothing for retirement.

· When asked where they learned the most about personal finance, the largest number (33 percent) said from their parents; yet 78 percent agree that they could benefit from advice and answers to everyday financial questions from a professional.

Most adults give themselves only a low grade on their knowledge of personal finance. Should we be worried because that many people with a poor-to-middling understanding of money management are likely to be the major influence on their children’s financial habits?

Fortunately, many financial education tools are available for people of all ages. The challenge is making people aware of them and encouraging them to seek help when they need it.

Helpful financial education sites include:

· SDSU Extension ( go to the Healthy Families tab for personal finance information.

· (, the government’s website dedicated to teaching Americans the basics about financial education.

· Practical Money Skills for Life (, a free personal financial management program run by Visa Inc., that includes saving and budgeting tips, and interactive video games like Financial Football that engage students while teaching them money-management skills.

· America Saves ( for information on what to save for, how to save, and savings tips. Saving is one of the most important things you can learn in life. Just put your mind to it, and before you know it, you are on your way to making your dreams a reality.

· The Mint ( provides tools to help parents and educators teach children to manage money wisely and develop good financial habits, the building blocks for a secure future.

· Jump$tart ( a parent’s guide to help teach your children about money.

Don’t let another April pass without taking steps to improve your financial literacy – and that of your kids.

Reach Karen Slunecka at 605-626-2870 or