Sad, but not surprising. Only six percent of Americans could pass a quiz about a broad range of financial decisions they’ll most likely need to make. This despite the fact that nearly half of Americans feel more financially secure today than five years ago, according to a new survey from Financial Engines, the robo advisor founded by Nobel Prize-winning economist William Sharpe of Sharpe Ratio fame.
“It’s not surprising that Americans are feeling better about their financial situations given low unemployment and a record-breaking stock market,” Andy Smith, CFP and senior vice president of financial planning at Financial Engines, said in a statement. Yet as the quiz shows, there’s a persistent problem with financial literacy, reinforcing the need (yet again) for strong financial wellness program placements in the workplace.
People who took the quiz struggled most with questions pertaining to long-term financial well-being, such as claiming Social Security benefits, planning for health care in retirement and purchasing the appropriate amount of life insurance. Most Americans recognized the complexity of claiming Social Security benefits, but only one-fifth of those surveyed said they felt confident about it. That was borne out in the quiz; nearly two-thirds of people did not know they could defer claiming Social Security benefits until age 70.
A previous study by Financial Engines found that claiming Social Security benefits too early can result in individuals leaving as much as $100,000 in potential earned benefits on the table. Married couples can miss out on as much as $200,000 in lifetime benefits. Most respondents also greatly underestimated how much they will need to cover out-of-pocket health care costs throughout retirement. More than half of those 65 and over believed the typical married couple will need between $50,000 and $200,000. This is well under the estimated average cost of $266,000.
While no one knows exactly how long they will live, many people underestimate standard assumptions for life expectancy, which can lead them to save much less than they need.