“Fake it until you make it.” If you’ve ever struggled in any scenario, it’s one surefire piece of advice you’re likely to hear or to give yourself. Rely on it too much, though, and you may create far more trouble for yourself than you need.
Last month, researchers at Ohio State University released a study about Americans’ overall financial literacy — and it turns out we’re faking it a lot more than we should be.
On average, our ability to budget, invest, manage our money and make it grow has declined since 2009. Our confidence in ourselves, meanwhile, keeps climbing: Researchers saw a 140 percent increase in survey respondents who scored lower than average on tests of objective financial knowledge and yet rated themselves better than average.
Everybody who can read learned how to do it at some point, likely early in their school career. However, not many of us ever learned financial literacy in a uniform and consistent way. That’s changing in Florida, where high schoolers will soon be required to pass a basic course in financial literacy in order to graduate high school. For the rest of us, it’s never too late to refresh our money management skills, or to get a handle on things we’ve been muddling through our whole lives.
Finances are a huge source of stress for many Americans. By giving yourself a good baseline of financial knowledge, you can set yourself up for better retirement outcomes, higher credit scores, lower debt and more options to make your money work for you. This doesn’t mean you have to undergo a lot of training: Just understanding basic vocabulary can give you a major boost in navigating financial systems that may seem intimidating.
If you’re looking for resources to boost your knowledge base, browse through some of the options here or set up a conversation with a financial professional to give yourself the solid financial foundation you deserve.
• Test your basic knowledge and get a handle on where you stand with a financial literacy quiz from FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or from a private group like WalletHub.
• If you’re more into learning through play, check out the 14 games offered from (no kidding) the FDIC.
• The federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has an expansive and well-sourced directory of websites, agencies and organizations to help decode a variety of topics, from retirement, small businesses and tax assistance to military needs, youth programs and credit management.
• If you like lots of simple handouts, documents, worksheets or even audio, check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s tools and resources for adults.
• For those who miss being in a classroom, look into accredited online courses from places like Duke University; searching “MOOC personal finance” should give you plenty of results to choose from.
• Just exposing yourself to financial knowledge on a regular basis can help you pick up a lot too. Check out well-regarded money management podcasts, like NPR’s Planet Money or the “starter pack” on personal-finance-from-regular-guys show How to Money.