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Could You Improve Your Financial Literacy?4/5/2019

April is National Financial Literacy Month and although not all Ohioans feel the strain of poor financial understanding, as a whole, the state’s financial literacy could use improvement.

In a 2018 WalletHub analysis of all 50 states, plus Washington D.C., Ohio ranked 16th in overall financial literacy knowledge.

Complicating Ohio’s rank are two segments of the population that tend to polarize financial data in the state. According to a Talk Poverty report, Ohio is ranked only 26th for income disparity in the country, a ratio showing how evenly wealth is distributed among the richest and poorest households.

According to the WalletHub study, income is tied to financial literacy rates. Households making less than $25,000 annually scored almost 21 points lower on a financial literacy assessment than households making $150,000 or more annually.

According to an Ohio Credit Union League 2019 consumer survey, about 76 percent of respondents indicated they were confident in their knowledge of personal finance. However, that likely does not represent the significant portion of Ohioans who struggle with financial literacy.

While the income range among participants in the study is unclear, 95 percent reported membership to an Ohio credit union, meaning they are considered banked. That gives them a financial literacy advantage over a large portion of Ohio’s population who do not keep money in a financial institution.

The schism of financial literacy in Ohio’s population may be perpetuated by beliefs about how children should learn the subject. Of the majority of Ohio Credit Union League study participants, 66 percent believe parents are the best resource for teaching children financial literacy and only 14 percent believing schools are the better option for that training.

Learning financial education at home might work for children from banked, financially well-off households, which have the upper hand in financial literacy, but for children living in Ohio’s large population of under-banked and low-income households, relying on parental advice for financial literacy training may not be a viable option.

Here are some tips for improving financial literacy in your household.

  • Don’t be embarrassed or overwhelmed. It’s never too late, or early, to start learning about personal finance. Tackle one topic at a time based on what’s most pressing to you. For instance, if you’re struggling with credit card debt, consider education on credit cards and debt repayment first.
  • Use resources from the federal government. The Financial Literacy and Education Commission website contains a myriad of resources for all sorts of financial education, from youth savings programs to financial literacy and education programs.
  • Search the internet. If you’re in doubt about a certain financial topic, don’t be afraid to ask Google (or whatever search engine you prefer). There are plenty of forums and articles available online to point you in the right direction. Just make sure you verify the resources offering advice and seek opinions from multiple platforms before making any important decisions.
  • Take a financial literacy class. There are plenty of financial literacy classes available through your local credit unions, adult education centers, and higher education institutions. If you would rather learn at your own pace, consider picking up a financial literacy self-help book or taking an online course.
  • Seek help. Sometimes, one-on-one help can be the most effective way to enhance financial literacy. Consider seeking a mentor or a certified financial planner. Most credit unions employ certified financial planners who are happy to help you tackle all sorts of personal finance questions.

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