Americans’ Financial Habits Need to Improve, Poll Shows

When it comes to financial literacy, you can know everything from how to fund an IRA to how to find a tax deduction – but still make fiscal mistakes. In fact, it turns out that many Americans are developing poor personal-finance habits. The average person is spending more, saving less and paying bills later.

The 2012 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey polled more than a thousand adults in March and revealed several areas in which Americans may need to get a better read on their own finances.

Savings: The number of adults with savings increased from 2008 to 2010, but the size of that group is shrinking rapidly – down 8 percent, to 59 percent, over the past two years. Two in five say they’re saving less than they did last year – and the same number say they have no savings beyond retirement funds.

Spending: For the second year, 28 percent of respondents say they’re spending more than they did the previous year. The number who say they’re spending less than the previous year has plunged from 57 percent in 2009 to 39 percent this year.

Budget: More than half of respondents say they have no budget and aren’t tracking their costs. More than one in five adults without budgets also aren’t sure how much they spend on housing, food and entertainment.

Bills: One in three adults fails to pay all bills on time – an increase over last year – which adds up to more than 77 million Americans who pay late.

Debt: About one in four Americans say they would seek help from friends and family on settling debt. That number held steady, but 13 percent say they would reach out to their lenders to explore solutions – up from 8 percent in 2011.

Credit Cards: Two in five Americans carry credit card debt – roughly the same number as in 2010 – but adults are now more likely to have applied and been rejected for a new credit card.

Mortgage: Would any conditions justify defaulting on a mortgage? Close to nine in 10 Americans now believe so, if the borrower can no longer afford the monthly payment or needs to relocate.

Knowledge of Personal Finance: Close to half of Americans learn about personal finance primarily at home, but four in five say they could benefit from additional professional advice on everyday financial matters.

For more insights, take a look at The 2012 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey, which was sponsored by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Network Branded Prepaid Card Association.

How do your financial habits compare with those who took the survey? Are you becoming more responsible with your spending and saving?

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  1. 1
    Linda Cruze

    I received an e-mail re my account. Do you send quarterly statements on interest earned and new balance? Thanks

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