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Reading, Writing and Risk

Beyond arithmetic, free resources help ensure your finances pass the test

By Cody McAlester | January 11, 2021

According to a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), 2020 was a little easier on those who could ace a 12-question quiz.

Far from a light-hearted round of Trivial Pursuit, the quiz polled 3,000 people of various ages, testing respondents' knowledge about interest rates, inflation, risk diversification and other financial concepts.

The conclusion? Being more financially knowledgeable lessens the chance of being financially fragile, especially during times of economic crisis like we are experiencing today.

Despite the intuitive nature of the findings, millions of U.S. students complete their secondary education with merely a cursory understanding of basic financial principles.

"As a high-school A-student who did everything my teachers and administrators expected of me, I was still ill-prepared to deal with adult life and basic financial matters when I graduated," said Kimberly Bridges, director of financial planning at BOK Financial. "It's a true disservice that we don't teach kids how to handle finances before we send them on their way as young adults."

And it's not just young adults. A recent survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of BOK Financial found that the average American doesn't experience a "financial awakening" until the age of 33. Additionally, over half of respondents aged 40 and older characterized their financial awareness journey as somewhere between "clueless" and "needing improvement."

Nearly half of all respondents either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement, "I find it difficult to plan for my long-term financial future due to gaps in my knowledge about personal finance."

While these findings are disheartening, there is hope. Even if it has been a while since you've seen the inside of a classroom, it's not too late to learn. In fact, the NBER study ended on a positive note, concluding that "having even a little financial knowledge can help people become more financially resilient, and this still holds true after controlling on sociodemographic characteristics including education and income."

And obtaining that knowledge doesn't require a "back-to-school" shopping spree or even a semester's worth of tuition costs.

Drawing on her years of industry experience, Bridges suggests a variety of free resources to sharpen your understanding of financial concepts. These tools provide anyone with an internet connection the opportunity to improve their financial resiliency:

Although not an exhaustive list, applying these and other free resources can be a game-changer for your financial future. Bridges did offer a word of caution when searching for help on your own, though.

"When searching online for educational materials, pay attention to the source of the materials and be selective. Choose resources from organizations with .org, .gov and .edu URLs," added Bridges. "In the world of finance, there are many opinions masquerading as facts, and they can be easy to confuse.

“In that sense, there is no substitute for a personal relationship with a knowledgeable and experienced financial advisor, but utilizing the resources on sites like these is a great first step in sharpening your financial literacy."