This article was surprising and disturbing, but in hindsight it really
should not have been:
The main point of the article is that a lot of people cannot answer
really basic questions about personal finance. They also say that
nobody really knows the details about the ignorance, because nobody
has studied it. This is probably because people who have the
qualifications to study financial literacy will assume that everybody
knows the basic stuff.
But when I stop to think about it, most of my financial literacy comes
from the Larry Burkett radio show. If you've never heard of him, he
was a financial expert who ran a talk and advice show. He would
explain the basics of financial planning, budgeting, interest rates,
etc. and give advice to people who called in. It was aired on the
Christian radio station, and my parents would listen to him in the car
when I was a kid.
They taught nothing about this in school. Our eighth grade health
teacher did a class on filling out tax forms, and she may have given
some vague recommendation to save money, but that was it. When I went
to college, I took accounting and finance classes. But they were
mainly designed to teach you the skills to be a corporate office
drone; there was very little on personal finance. And outside the
College of Business, there was nothing at all.
So the complete ignorance on financial matters is not surprising.
Nobody teaches it. Our school system makes algebra, which is useless
for 95% of the population, a graduation requirement, while teaching
absolutely nothing about interest rates and balancing budgets. All
information about money comes from friends and family, charities, or
people who are trying to sell you something.
As far as I can tell, churches and religious groups seem to be the
only people trying to teach financial literacy in a systematic way.
It is a sad comment on our society that an organization devoted to the
health of the soul finds it necessary to teach the ways of Mammon.