Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Greater fools..!

Came across this interesting article - "GREATER FOOLS" by James Surowiecki

Some excerpts from the article -

Halfway through his Presidency, George W. Bush called on the country to build “an ownership society.” He trumpeted the soaring rate of U.S. homeownership, and extolled the virtues of giving individuals more control over their own financial lives. It was a comforting vision, but, as we now know, behind it was a bleak reality—bad subprime loans, mountains of credit-card debt, and shrinking pensions—reflecting a simple fact: when it comes to financial matters, many Americans have been left without a clue.

The depth of our financial ignorance is startling. In recent years, Annamaria Lusardi, an economist at Dartmouth and the head of the Financial Literacy Center, has conducted extensive studies of what Americans know about finance. It’s depressing work. Almost half of those surveyed couldn’t answer two questions about inflation and interest rates correctly, and slightly more sophisticated topics baffle a majority of people. Many people don’t know the terms of their mortgage or the interest rate they’re paying. And, at a time when we’re borrowing more than ever, most Americans can’t explain what compound interest is.

There’s evidence that just improving basic calculation skills and inculcating a few key concepts could make a significant difference. One study of the few states that have mandated financial education in schools found that it had a surprisingly large impact on savings rates. And the Center for American Progress has found that, across the country, education and counselling by nonprofit organizations, like the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, have helped low-income families buy and hold onto homes, even during the housing bubble. The point isn’t to turn the average American into Warren Buffett but to help people avoid disasters and day-to-day choices that eat away at their bank accounts. The difference between knowing a little about your finances and knowing nothing can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. And, as the past ten years have shown us, the cost to society can be far greater than that.

Read more - The dangers of financial illiteracy in America: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2010/07/05/100705ta_talk_surowiecki#ixzz0uu47TwMv