A recent Equifax survey indicated most consumers who participated do not place themselves at the head of the class when it comes to financial literacy. Auto finance companies such as General Motors Financial are putting initiatives in motion to coincide with National Financial Literacy Month in April to improve the situation.
First, the challenge that Equifax uncovered. Its survey showed one-third of the respondents grade themselves a "C" when looking at their financial literacy knowledge.
Findings also pointed out that one in five surveyed consumers know more about national politics than their own credit histories, 13 percent said they knew more about their favorite sports teams, 7 percent said they knew more about this season of their favorite TV series, and 6 percent knew more about the latest fashion trends.
The good news is that most consumers are taking steps to educate themselves when it comes to financial literacy. When asked to select the steps they’ve taken to improve their financial literacy within the last year, Equifax found that 45 percent of the surveyed consumers said they read news articles on financial websites, while 28 percent sought guidance from family and friends.
While parents were the most popular source of information, the second most common source was a personal finance course during high school or college. Equifax noted 90 percent of survey respondents saw value in teaching personal finance, saying they thought it should be a required course to graduate high school.
“At Equifax Global Consumer Solutions, we know that financial literacy is a key part of the foundation to establishing responsible credit behavior,” said Dann Adams, president of global consumer solutions at Equifax. “Without a basic understanding of credit and your own behaviors, it can become challenging to do some of the basic fundamentals such as save for retirement, establish an emergency savings account or move beyond living paycheck to paycheck.
"One of the survey’s results we found encouraging is that many consumers understand the importance of paying bills on time, every time. When it comes to creating knowledge, and establishing the right kinds of credit behaviors, we can't emphasize this point enough,” Adams added.
The survey also found:
—Most surveyed consumers correctly selected the factors that can impact credit scores. Specifically, 87 percent knew paying bills on time is one factor that impacts a credit score.
—Additionally, 42 percent of surveyed consumers knew that most types of negative information can stay on a credit report for seven years. This is up slightly from the 40 percent of surveyed consumers who knew this same information in 2016.
—A majority of surveyed consumers felt confident about their short- and long-term financial futures. Sixty-one percent indicated they were confident or extremely confident about their short-term financial futures, and 54 percent indicated they were confident or extremely confident about their long-term financial futures.
Respondents 60 years of age and older were most confident about their financial futures, while respondents aged 45 through 59 were least confident.
“As consumers age and financial needs change, the importance of staying educated about personal finance and credit is absolutely critical,” Adams said. “We will continue to learn from these surveys and infuse financial wellness and literacy into our consumer-facing efforts at Equifax."
For the second annual Equifax Global Consumer Solutions Financial Literacy Survey, Equifax commissioned a blind survey of more than 1,000 American consumers in March. The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus 5 percent.
And Equifax isn’t alone in its efforts to educate consumers about finances.
GM Financial reaffirmed its commitment to empower and enrich local communities through financial education and resources that create opportunities for upward mobility.
National Financial Literacy Month was officially established in 2004 to highlight the importance of this critical skillset and teach Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits. This month, GM Financial will advance the financial literacy mission through its sponsorship of Financial Literacy Day on Capitol Hill (“Hill Day”) planned for April 28.
Hill Day was created to raise awareness on Capitol Hill and among capital-area thought leaders about current efforts to improve our country’s financial literacy, and to showcase organizations that are leading the way. The event is organized by Jump$tart Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving personal financial literacy.
This engagement follows the launch of the finance company’s comprehensive educational program, KEYS by GM Financial, late last year. This program includes live, interactive training sessions with a certified GM Financial facilitator, tailored terminology guides, comprehensive budget worksheets and access to free online tools and resources.
“As a financial institution and engaged corporate citizen, GM Financial is committed to improving financial literacy with our customers and communities,” GM Financial president and chief executive officer Dan Berce said.
“Through our KEYS program and outreach, we are demonstrating this commitment by developing and delivering critically important credit, budgeting and basic financial education that helps fulfill dreams of social and financial mobility,” Berce continued.
The company also recently announced a partnership with the City of Fort Worth’s job development initiative CAPWORKS to provide biweekly financial literacy education.
GM Financial highlighted the KEYS curriculum complements and aligns with the other comprehensive services CAPWORKS already provides to economically disadvantaged families, individuals and elderly in Tarrant County, including energy bill payment assistance, economic independence coaching, emergency rental payment assistance, tuition reimbursement and more.