Americans Are Horrible At Basic Personal Finance


By Andrew Scot Bolsinger

A new survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that many American lack basic money-management skills.

“The bad news is that many people are missing a solid personal finance foundation, but there is good news: they know that they don’t know,” says Gail Cunningham, vice president of public relations at the NFCC.

The NFCC survey found that many Americans have significant gaps in their personal finance knowledge, with more than 60% admitting to not having a budget, the highest level is six years, according to

“Budgeting is a basic building block to personal finances,” says Cunningham. “But too many people think budget is a four-letter word and become restrictive. People are afraid to see their spending staring back at them in black and white and (worry) that it will force a behavioral change.”

The survey also shows 41% of adults give themselves a grade of ‘C’ or lower when it comes to their personal finance knowledge.

In good news, the survey found that adult spending dropped to a new low this year to 29 percent. The high in 2009 at the onset of The Great Recession was 57%.

But Cunningham said another trend was hard to understand. Fifteen percent of the people surveyed said they roll over at least $2,500 every month on credit cards, which contradicts results that show a lack of savings is respondent’s top financial worry.

“We were all wondering when people were going to start feeling more confident to spend again, and it looks like that time is here,” Cunningham said.

Despite the lack of basic knowledge and skills, many refuse to ask for help, Cunningham said.

“People wait too long to come in and ask for help. We in America have that ‘push-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps’ mentality, and that’s great and we should all try that, but waiting too long to see the doctor is bad and so is waiting too long to get financial help.”

Andrew Scot Bolsinger won more than two dozen press awards during his journalism career. He is a freelance writer, author and operates, which is focused on prison reform. He can reached at Follow @CriminalUniv on Twitter.


Personal Finance