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Americans Can Do Even Better On Financial Literacy

Americans score very poorly on financial literacy and we know it.

April is Financial Literacy Month, so this is a good time to focus on these issues and how they may be shortchanging our families’ futures.

A recent study and new report card on the topic drives the point home painfully.

The National Report Card on Financial Literacy, completed in December 2016 for Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, finds that three-quarters of the adult U.S. population lives in states that have poor grades on financial knowledge and skills.

And the 2016 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey, conducted by Harris Poll, found that 45 percent of adults gave themselves a grade of C or lower on their own personal financial knowledge. And, the survey goes on, a quarter of us haven’t saved anything for retirement, almost a third have no savings other than retirement savings, 60 percent don’t have a budget and 22 percent don’t pay bills on time.

As pretty much any of us knows, discussions about finances are difficult enough that we just avoid them at all costs. But these statistics show us that we keep our head in the sand at our own peril. And at the risk of the rest of society, too, it turns out.

The Champlain College report card suggests that our willful ignorance of personal finance played a role in the punishing recession we went through in 2008. And Champlain says we undermine our very national economic health by failing to proactively educate ourselves and our families.

There is good news, though. And it’s that there are plenty of places to turn for refreshers or primers on where to start or even where to just look for advice and guidance.

The general audience media isn’t a bad place to go if you’re trying to get your head around some of the topics that you might want to research. The Huffington Post, for example, has a couple of pages worth of articles devoted to Financial Literacy Month. Many other publications have similar coverage.

To be sure, reading a few articles online is no way to boost your financial literacy grades. But it’s a great way to become better informed and to frame what you might want to learn.

And then you can go to a financial professional with some educated questions about what you might need to do. Do you and your family have adequate life insurance? Do you have a sound retirement plan in place? Do you know what you would do if for some reason you or another family member were thrown out of work unexpectedly?

There are sure to be other questions particular to your own situation and family’s circumstances. April is an excellent time to improve your own personal financial literacy.

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