• 07.18.16

Most Americans Can’t Pass A Basic Financial Literacy Quiz

How well do you understand compound interest?

Most Americans Can’t Pass A Basic Financial Literacy Quiz

If you know what a bond is–and what usually happens to bond prices when interest rates go up–you’re in the minority of Americans. In a recent survey that asked nearly 30,000 people five basic questions of financial literacy, only 28% could answer a question about bonds. Only 37% could answer four out of five questions correctly.


That’s slightly worse than people did in the same survey after the financial crisis; in 2009, 42% were considered financially literate.

The survey, from the FINRA Foundation, also found–unsurprisingly–that Americans aren’t necessarily managing their money well. About half of respondents pay off their credit card bills in full each month, more than in the past. People are more likely to have emergency funds now than they were after the financial crisis, but not even half of less-educated respondents said that they would be able to come up with $2,000 in 30 days if they needed it.

Another recent survey found that 62% of Americans have $1,000 or less saved up; one out of five has nothing saved at all.

The FINRA survey also found differences in finances between different demographics. Women are more likely to put off going to the doctor because they can’t afford the bills. Hispanics and African-Americans are more likely to borrow money with payday loans or through pawnshops. Millennials are more likely to have been late with mortgage payments than those over age 55. And the more money you make, the more likely it is that you can pass the financial literacy quiz.

Try taking the quiz here.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.