Collectively, we as Americans owe a record amount of money—over 13.5 trillion dollars. Yikes! If you’ve read any of our recent blogs you already know this. But what you might not know is that the recent report by The New York Fed (Mark talked about in last week’s blog) says that while the amount of debt is higher than before the great recession it’s not as risky this time around because things are different. Phew!
Debt in of itself isn’t a bad thing. It can be good when it allows us to buy a house, a car or a college degree we could not otherwise afford. But it’s important to keep a good handle on our finances to not only understand what’s coming in versus what’s going out and the ability maintain a good balance of both. We also need to be able to understand basic financial concepts like risk diversification, inflation, interest and compounding interest.
Right now our economy is booming with unemployment at a fifty-year low and wages rising. You’d think we’d be having a field day getting our finances in order wouldn’t you? But according to a recent survey by Bankrate that’s not the case at all. We are actually marching in the opposite direction. (That’s why Mark and I keep writing about this topic!)
For example, this year’s report found only 44 percent of households surveyed have more money in emergency savings than the amount they owe in credit card debt. I can shine a brighter light on that 44 percent by telling you it is 14 points lower than last year’s 58 percent and the lowest percentage in Bankrate’s nine year history of conducting this survey. To make matters worse these numbers probably won’t be getting better soon because according to the same report only 43 percent of those surveyed said they were focusing on boosting their emergency savings this year, down from 53 percent last year. Uh Oh!
A couple of months ago I read an article in investmentnews.com called, “Financial Literacy: An Epic Fail in America.” The title pretty much says it all. The article talks about a 23-year-old graduating senior at a Texas university who was starting his first post-graduation position when he had the rude realization that he had to begin paying back his $90,000 worth of loans and what that really meant in monthly payments—about half of his new monthly salary. This student made it through all those years of schooling plus four additional years of higher learning yet he had no idea what he had gotten himself into.
Sadly this is not an isolated event and many Americans (as well as many people world-wide) struggle with financial literacy. It begs the question: Are students learning enough about how to manage their money?
The Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College doesn’t think so. Established in 2010 the center was designed to promote and develop financial literacy skills in k-12 pupils as well as college students, teachers and other adults. In 2017 the center graded each of the states on a National Report Card on Financial Literacy. Sadly only five states received an “A”.
Wisconsin, where I live, scored an “F” on that report. That’s probably what prompted then-Governor Scott Walker to sign a bill requiring school districts to incorporate personal finance into k-12 instruction.
With these types of statistics trending like they are, it’s easy to see how many Americans—even in a good economy—are struggling to keep up with their debt. We need to educate ourselves and our youth on financial literacy now! If not, I don’t want to even think about what’s going to happen when our economy takes a tumble.
A. Alliance Collection Agency, Inc. is a full service, licensed accounts receivable management and debt collection agency providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Founded in northern Illinois in 2005, we have been proudly improving the bottom-line on behalf of our business partners in and around Chicagoland for over 14 years.