The majority of Americans feel good about their financial health. A recent survey by financial services company Financial Engines found that over 47 percent of Americans feel more secure about their finances today than they did five years ago.
But feelings aren't the same as facts. When Financial Engines gave the same survey respondents an 11-question financial literacy quiz, only 6 percent passed.
So, although Americans might feel that they're making responsible financial decisions, they could be inadvertently setting themselves up for ruin.
"When it comes to your finances, poor decisions you make today can cost you for the rest of your life," says Andy Smith, certified financial planner and senior vice president of financial planning at Financial Engines.
Try taking the quiz yourself, and scroll down to see how others fared.
The following four questions tripped up quiz-takers the most.
1. How much will the typical married couple retiring at age 65 spend on out-of-pocket costs for health care throughout retirement (in today's dollars)?
Only 6.9 percent of respondents correctly guessed E. $266,000.
Health-care costs are on the rise. According to the survey, the average 65-year-old couple covered by Medicare parts B, D and a supplemental insurance policy will spend more than $250,000 on health-care costs in retirement.
Most Americans grossly underestimated.
"More than half (58 percent) of those 65 and over — and three-quarters (76 percent) of those ages 55 to 64 — believed the typical married couple retiring today at age 65 will need between $50,000 and $200,000," Financial Engines reports.
2. If you purchase a bond and interest rates rise, what will happen to the price of the bond?
B. Stay the same
Only 19.9 percent of respondents correctly guessed C. Fall.
Bond prices and interest rates have an inverse relationship, so when interest rates rise, bond prices drop and vice versa.
3. A typical 65-year-old man can expect to live, on average, for how many more years?
A. About 10 more years
B. About 15 more years
C. About 20 more years
D. About 25 more years
E. About 30 more years
Only 28 percent of respondents correctly guessed C. About 20 more years.
According to data from the Social Security Administration, men can expect to live to around 84 years old. That should be reflected in their retirement plan so they don't outlive their savings. Women can expect to live longer, to around 87 years old.
4. What is the average annual rate of inflation for college tuition around the country?
A. 2 percent
B. 5 percent
C. 8 percent
D. 11 percent
Only 28.4 percent of respondents correctly guessed C. 8 percent.
"At 8 percent annual inflation, college tuition doubles about every nine years," Financial Engines explains.
Though the quiz results are telling, they don't mean anyone is doomed. It's never too late to educate yourself, and the easiest way to do that is also the most cost effective: books.
Self-made millionaires agree that "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez is a must-read. And, for other good starting points, be sure to check out this list of personal finance classics summed up in one sentence.
You can also elicit the help of a certified financial planner or other financial advisor who will help you take stock of your financial situation and figure out how to achieve your goals. But be careful to choose someone who is a fiduciary, which means that they have a legal duty to act in your best interest.
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