Here’s a reminder that parents should start their homework this summer to minimize college loan repayments over the long haul. A few basic decisions can add or subtract thousands of dollars.
A little help came last week, when the interest rates on all federal student loans were reduced. Despite the declines, the rates for the PLUS loans available to parents remain much higher than the loans available to their offspring – taking out a PLUS loan will nearly double the interest paid on $50,000 over 20 years, compared with an undergraduate Stafford loan.
This is an argument for having prospective students take out the loans, rather than the parents. As for paying them back, financial advisers tend to agree that young adults with decades of work ahead of them can share in that responsibility at a time their parents are facing retirement. This complex family decision depends on myriad factors, including how much income the graduate can expect to earn after college and how comfortable the parents are.
There are one-time, upfront fees on federal student loans, and they are also much higher for parent PLUS loans: 4.272 percent of the loan’s principal amount versus 1.068 percent for Stafford loans for undergraduates – these fees will go up for loans disbursed after Oct. 1.
The Institute for College Access & Success has put together an excellent cheat sheet explaining the federal loan options, who qualifies for various types of loans, and the costs of each. To see this sheet, click here.
Below is the institute’s summary of the new loan rates, effective July 1: …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. …
Most people think they’re above average when it comes to financial knowledge. And it’s not easy to educate people who think they know more than they actually do.
But hubris – or something like it – is what financial educators are up against, indicates research by professors Annamaria Lusardi at the George Washington School of Business and Olivia Mitchell at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Their paper used data from 1,200 respondents to a survey they conducted for the Investor Education Foundation or FINRA, the self-regulatory agency for the securities industry. It may be the most comprehensive study on Americans’ financial literacy.
Seventy percent of the survey’s respondents believe they know more about basic financial concepts than most other people. But they scored poorly on the survey’s three rudimentary financial literacy questions. One-third to one-half of them answered the questions incorrectly or indicated they didn’t know the answers.
The results “paint a troubling picture of the current state of financial knowledge in the United States,” the authors said.
Further, this low level of knowledge, when combined with overconfidence about that knowledge, does not bode well for attempts to educate people about money and their personal finances.
Before I provide more detail about Lusardi and Mitchell’s findings, take the quiz yourself. Here are the questions1: Learn More
Consider these grim outcomes for financial educators:
One study found that the seniors who had the least financial knowledge were most confident about their knowledge;
The most successful educational tools – stock market games – send the message it’s okay to gamble;
When Illinois required consumers to attend a workshop for certain types of mortgages, homebuyers avoided those mortgages;
Scores for national financial literacy tests administered to high schools by the JumpStart program declined between 1997 and 2008;
Soldiers exhibited worse budgeting behaviors after taking a financial course than before.
In the past decade, foundations, governments, and non-profits have poured millions into financial literacy efforts in grade schools through college and among low-income neighborhoods and specialized groups, such as homebuyers and the military.Learn More
It’s been well-established that most people have low levels of financial literacy and struggle to manage and plan their personal finances. Now two Wisconsin researchers have taken the conversation to the next level by trying to explain why.
According to their study, featured in a webinar posted online today, the financial literacy of people entering retirement is significantly determined by high school IQ level or by whether the individual took high-level math classes in school.
University of Wisconsin professors Pamela Herd and Karen Holden arrived at this finding by analyzing 6,000 individuals from a unique longitudinal data set of people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957 – and were in their mid-60s at the time of the study. …Learn More