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Mortgage borrowers know that they don't know much

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Education's the key
The need for consumer education underlies all three of these surveys: Radian's, which found that homeowners wish they knew more about mortgages; Freddie Mac's, which reported that delinquent borrowers don't know their options, and LendingTree's, which uncovered confusion about all kinds of debt.

But who should do the educating? Radian recommends "lenders and others in the financial services arena." Freddie Mac devotes a section of its Web site to consumer education, including tips on avoiding foreclosure. LendingTree has a section of its Web site called the Knowledge Center.

Want to test your knowledge now? Bankrate has built a five-question "Personal finance quiz" that will tell you how much you know -- or don't.

"We want to be the consumers' advocate and adviser," says Doug Lebda, chief executive of LendingTree. "We think we're in a better position to do that the more we know about what consumers need and want in the market."

That, he says, is why the company commissioned Manning's report. It's the first part of a multiyear program to teach people money-management skills.

No quick fixes
For his part, Manning has no quick solutions. He has helped develop financial literacy programs for college students, and he concludes his report by writing that "it's never been more important for borrowers to arm themselves with knowledge and build sound financial-management skills."

But getting consumers to arm themselves with knowledge is a difficult task.

Radian's survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive. It is a self-selected sample and so is not a random sample of Americans. Freddie Mac's telephone poll was conducted by Roper among 2,031 homeowners age 18 and older. The margin of error of the total sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Manning's study took the form of questionnaires, interviews and focus group sessions involving 145 people in various stages of life in Rochester, N.Y.; Alexandria, Va., and Orlando, Fla.'s corrections policy -- Posted: Jan. 19, 2006
More stories by Holden Lewis
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Foreclosure, mortgage and loan quiz
Bankrate study: We're in debt denial
Foreclosure: Day 1 to the bitter end
Winner or loser: Mortgage shopper
Winner or loser: Home equity loans
Winner or loser: Auto loans

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