Building an emergency savings fund may pose a challenge for many consumers, according to results from the 2019 Equifax Financial Literacy Survey.
Forty-nine percent of the 1,071 adults responding to the fourth annual survey reported they don’t have enough savings to cover three months of living expenses. Among respondents ages 45 to 59, nearly six in 10 reported they don’t have an emergency fund – the highest among surveyed age brackets.
Meanwhile, more than half of respondents – 56 percent – said they don’t have any money left over at the end of the month. And 35 percent say they aren’t saving for retirement, up from 29 percent in 2018.
“Not having any cash left over at the end of the month may mean that these surveyed consumers are relying more on credit cards as a means to support themselves, financially,” said Nancy Bistritz-Balkan, vice president of consumer education, Equifax. “If that is the case, we want to make sure consumers are aware of how important it is to practice responsible behaviors such as: paying bills on time, every time; and keeping credit card balances as low as possible.”
For the third straight year, the majority of survey respondents (37 percent) gave themselves a “B” when asked to grade themselves on their level of basic financial literacy. Sixteen percent said they deserve an “A,” while 32 percent said they would give themselves a “C.”
On where they turn for personal finance and credit knowledge, nearly half of respondents – 48 percent – said their parents. Other sources included personal finance courses in high school and college (14 percent), online blogs and news sources (10 percent), and a significant other (10 percent).
Fifty-one percent of survey respondents believe credit bureaus are a good source of financial information as well, and said they are aware that bureaus offer educational information on their websites. Last year, only 30 percent said they believe credit bureaus were a good information source.
And speaking of personal finance courses, roughly 90 percent of respondents said they believe personal finance should be required to graduate high school. And more than 67 percent said they would participate in a financial education program if it were free and accessible.
Survey respondents also reported adopting some positive behaviors:
— More than 62 percent said they have created a budget over the past year
— About 31 percent said they plan to put this year’s tax refunds into savings
— Twenty-five percent said they only use credit cards for minor purchases
— Nearly half (48 percent) said they double-check credit card and/or bank statements as a means of helping better protect against fraud
— Eighty-one percent said they pay their bills on time, every time
— Two-thirds (66 percent) are working on paying off debt
— Half of respondents had checked their credit scores in the past month
On financial goals, 62 percent of respondents said they would like to live debt-free. Another 43 percent said they would like to have an emergency fund, and 38 percent would like to own a home. Nearly half of respondents believe their current financial habits will allow them to reach those goals.
The Equifax Financial Literacy Survey was conducted in March, with 1,071 adults responding. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.
See more fast facts from the 2019 Equifax Financial Literacy Survey.
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