- Financial literacy and stock market participation (2007)
- Individuals are increasingly put in charge of their financial security after retirement. Moreover, the supply of complex financial products has increased considerably over the years. However, we still have little or no information about whether individuals have the financial knowledge and skills to navigate this new financial environment. To better understand financial literacy and its relation to financial decision-making, we have devised two special modules for the DNB Household Survey. We have designed questions to measure numeracy and basic knowledge related to the working of inflation and interest rates, as well as questions to measure more advanced financial knowledge related to financial market instruments (stocks, bonds, and mutual funds). We evaluate the importance of financial literacy by studying its relation to the stock market: Are more financially knowledgeable individuals more likely to hold stocks? To assess the direction of causality, we make use of questions measuring financial knowledge before investing in the stock market. We find that, while the understanding of basic economic concepts related to inflation and interest rate compounding is far from perfect, it outperforms the limited knowledge of stocks and bonds, the concept of risk diversification, and the working of financial markets. We also find that the measurement of financial literacy is very sensitive to the wording of survey questions. This provides additional evidence for limited financial knowledge. Finally, we report evidence of an independent effect of financial literacy on stock market participation: Those who have low financial literacy are significantly less likely to invest in stocks. JEL Classification: D91, G11, D80
- Debt literacy, financial experiences, and overindebtedness (2009)
- We analyze a national sample of Americans with respect to their debt literacy, financial experiences, and their judgments about the extent of their indebtedness. Debt literacy is measured by questions testing knowledge of fundamental concepts related to debt and by selfassessed financial knowledge. Financial experiences are the participants’ reported experiences with traditional borrowing, alternative borrowing, and investing activities. Overindebtedness is a self-reported measure. Overall, we find that debt literacy is low: only about one-third of the population seems to comprehend interest compounding or the workings of credit cards. Even after controlling for demographics, we find a strong relationship between debt literacy and both financial experiences and debt loads. Specifically, individuals with lower levels of debt literacy tend to transact in high-cost manners, incurring higher fees and using high-cost borrowing. In applying our results to credit cards, we estimate that as much as one-third of the charges and fees paid by less knowledgeable individuals can be attributed to ignorance. The less knowledgeable also report that their debt loads are excessive or that they are unable to judge their debt position. JEL Classification: D14, D91
- Financial literacy : an essential tool for informed consumer choice? (2008)
- Increasingly, individuals are in charge of their own financial security and are confronted with ever more complex financial instruments. However, there is evidence that many individuals are not well-equipped to make sound saving decisions. This paper demonstrates widespread financial illiteracy among the U.S. population, particularly among specific demographic groups. Those with low education, women, African-Americans, and Hispanics display particularly low levels of literacy. Financial literacy impacts financial decision-making. Failure to plan for retirement, lack of participation in the stock market, and poor borrowing behavior can all be linked to ignorance of basic financial concepts. While financial education programs can result in improved saving behavior and financial decision-making, much can be done to improve these programs’ effectiveness.
- Planning and financial literacy : how do women fare? (2008)
- Many older US households have done little or no planning for retirement, and there is a substantial population that seems to undersave for retirement. Of particular concern is the relative position of older women, who are more vulnerable to old-age poverty due to their longer longevity. This paper uses data from a special module we devised on planning and financial literacy in the 2004 Health and Retirement Study. It shows that women display much lower levels of financial literacy than the older population as a whole. In addition, women who are less financially literate are also less likely to plan for retirement and be successful planners. These findings have important implications for policy and for programs aimed at fostering financial security at older ages.