Poor and working people’s continual worries about money cloud their thinking and make it more difficult to perform simple tasks, concludes new research in Science magazine.
This finding came out of two very different experiments – one at a New Jersey shopping mall, the other in India’s sugar cane fields – by an international team of economists and psychologists.
In the first experiment, wealthy and low-income shoppers – $70,000 in household income was the cutoff between high and low – were seated in front of computers and quizzed about a variety of financial scenarios designed to trigger thoughts of their own money concerns.
For example, they might have been asked whether to pay for a car repair with a loan or cash or to forgo the work altogether. Some of these scenarios were relatively easy to resolve – say, the car repair cost only $150. In a difficult scenario, it might cost $1,500.
After answering a series of easy and hard financial questions, the shoppers performed simple tasks often administered by psychologists, such as picking the shape that best fits into a group of other shapes. Rich and poor performed similarly on the tasks after they were presented with the low-cost scenarios. But the high-cost scenarios caused the poor to perform significantly worse.
A brain distracted by financial problems is “like a computer slowing down when you run too many things at once,” said Eldar Shafir, a Princeton University professor of psychology and public affairs. …Learn More
By the time people reach their mid-60s, two out of three have retired, either voluntarily or because they’re unable to keep or find a job. By age 75, nine out of ten are out of the labor force.
But the minority who do continue working aren’t just survivors – they’re thrivers. Think novelist Toni Morrison, rocker Neil Young, or the older person who still comes into your office every day.
The earnings of U.S. workers in their 60s and 70s are rising faster than earnings for people in their prime working years, according to a new study. Defying the stereotype that they’re marking time, today’s older workers are also just as productive as people in their prime working years.
Driving these trends is education: far more older Americans now have a college degree than they once did.
There’s a “perception that the aged are less healthy, less educated, less up-to-date in their knowledge and more fragile than the young,” but this does “not necessarily describe the people who choose or who are permitted to remain in paid employment at older ages,” Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, concluded in his study.
The experience of age 60-plus workers is becoming increasingly important, because there are more of them in this country than there ever have been – a rising trend that will continue. …Learn More
A U.S. Army requirement that newly enlisted men and women complete an ambitious personal finance course is having some impressive results.
At a time when financial education is increasingly being criticized as an ineffective way to raise Americans’ low saving rate, an 8-hour course held on 13 Army bases is significantly boosting how much military personnel are saving for their retirement – among both big and small savers. They also trimmed their debts.
The strong results, described in a new study by William Skimmyhorn, an assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, are also sending a ripple through the financial literacy community.
“The reason this study is so interesting is because it’s so unusual,” said Harvard University’s Brigitte Madrian, co-director of the household finance working group for the National Bureau of Economic Research. “There aren’t a lot of other scientific studies one can point to” that show empirically that financial education can improve an individual’s well-being, she said. …Learn More
As delinquencies by college graduates have increased, so have their personal financial risks: 15.1 percent of loans originated in late 2010 are now delinquent, up from 12.4 percent of late-2005 loans, according to a January report by FICO, creator of the credit score. More students are also delaying their loan payments.
“This situation is simply unsustainable,” warned Andrew Jennings, head of FICO Labs. “When wage growth is slow and jobs are not as plentiful as they once were, it is impossible for individuals to continue taking out ever-larger student loans without greatly increasing the risk of default.”
American Student Assistance (ASA) is a non-profit that helps college graduates with the complex task ofmanagingtheir loans. Debtpreventionis the best course of action, and an increasingly urgent one for students. For those who are already in debt, clickherefor how to call an ASA counselor. Click “Learn More” to read a May 2011 article about ASA. …Learn More
In a September paper distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Professor Brigitte Madrian and her co-authors reviewedthe current state of U.S. financial education. In an interview, Madrian, a professor in Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, provided some fresh insights into education, regulation, and the role of the financial industry.
Q: Besides low financial literacy, why do people make bad financial decisions?
A: Procrastination. Inattention – one reason people accrue credit card late fees is that they forget to pay their bills on time. Advertising – people are swayed by the marketing of financial services and products. Not all products pushed by financial advisers or financial-services companies are appropriate for everyone, and sometimes people are swayed into purchasing products that may be right for someone else but aren’t right for them.
Q: Does financial education even work?
A: I believe the jury is out. We do not have a lot of compelling evidence on the impact of financial literacy programs. There have been lots of studies on programs, but many of them are of dubious scientific validity. Of the ones that are more credible in terms of methodology, some find very little impact on financial education and a handful find financially positive effects. …
Leave it to high school kids to inject some much-needed perspective into our economic and policy debates.
In Tuesday’s election, the presidential election may come down to a few swing states. But the next president, whoever he is, faces tough challenges – topped by the massive destruction of roads and transit systems wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, a tepid economy, and the “fiscal cliff” that a divided Congress enacted to automatically cut the $1 trillion budget deficit.
This video, by students at the East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg, Georgia, was among the winners of a contest sponsored by the Council for Economic Education, a national financial literacy organization that also has state chapters.
Click here for winning videos submitted by high schools in New Jersey and Maryland.Learn More
Admissions policies and financial aid packages at individual colleges – not just tuitions and fees – are significant determinants of student loan levels, according to new research.
No wonder there’s a cottage industry of financial planners who specialize in counseling families on college admissions: this granular – and often invisible – information about financial aid is critical to whether your child carries a burdensome debt load with his diploma on graduation day.
The media and policymakers – and (Squared Away adds) parents – “have assumed that tuition and university sticker prices are the primary if not the sole factor driving the rise in student indebtedness,” James Monks, an economist in the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business, concluded in an October paper. “This assumption ignores the substantial impact that college and university admissions and financial aid policies” have in determining debt levels.
Certainly parents should pay attention to tuition and fees. But Monk found that public college admission policies that are blind to students’ financial circumstances produce students with “a higher average debt upon graduation,” which tends to fall on their lower-income students. When a college says that it is “need-blind,” it is saying that it looks at each student’s financial situation only after deciding whether to admit him or her based on test scores, grades and letters – this policy is typically aimed at increasing enrollment of low-income students. After agreeing to accept a student, the institutions try to help those who need it most through their financial aid packages. But this aid often falls short, requiring heavy borrowing by students.
In contrast, the target of some private institutions is to maximize the number of students graduating with no debt or limited debt. At institutions with such policies, Monks found that students have significantly lower debt levels than institutions that lack this policy.
Danielle Schultz, a straight-talking Evanston, Illinois, financial planner said most public colleges claim to be need-blind in selecting their incoming freshman class. But at a time when state budgets are tight, far fewer now have the financial resources to back up such a policy, she said, which drives up borrowing by their students. As for private colleges, she said they’re also feeling financial pressure and believes that fewer institutions than in the past can afford to maintain generous no-debt policies.
Rising debt levels is the result. U.S. college graduates had $26,600 in student debt last year, up 45 percent from 2004, according to a new report by the Institute for College Access and Success.
Schultz, who just successfully shipped her daughter off to college – Bryn Mawr outside Philadelphia – describes college application as a treacherous process rife with pitfalls.
“Schools are in the business of forking over the least money possible to get the most motivated kids and the most diversity,” she said. The onus is increasingly on parents “to think hard about what kind of dollars they are willing to fork over.” These days, it’s about the major: can the student get a job after college? Her rule: don’t borrow more than the student can expect to earn the first year after graduation…Learn More