Financial Literacy - Smart borrowing
Americans somewhat less clueless

Ken Wade, chief executive officer of NeighborWorks America, says Americans are feeling squeezed by a lack of affordable housing.

"Home prices -- both rental and homeownership -- have been outpacing incomes for a good 10 years now," says Wade, whose nonprofit organization provides financial support and training for community-based revitalization efforts.

"That's been somewhat of a unique, new phenomenon. So, I think there are many people who are in homes (who) may be paying a significant portion of their income for their housing costs."

Most not delinquent

Although many homeowners are worried, the vast majority of poll respondents -- 91.5 percent -- say they were never more than 30 days late in making a mortgage payment in the past year.

Frank says those numbers may not be as positive as they appear at first blush.

"Eight percent is a high rate of late payments," she says, considering that "even in good times, late payments average 2 percent to 3 percent."

Only 4 percent of survey respondents admitted to making late payments, and nearly 5 percent either didn't know or wouldn't say.

However, McBride sees more room for optimism in those numbers.

"Delinquencies and foreclosures are at record levels," he says. "But because 92 percent of homeowners are still on time, consumer spending and the overall economy continue to limp along and haven't been knocked out despite the headwinds."

On another positive note, the percentage of homeowners who "regularly" worried about making their payments actually declined slightly, from 15 percent in 2007 to 13 percent in 2008.

Gender gap

The survey also uncovered some specific differences between how men and women perceive and understand their mortgage situation.

Women worry more
How often do you worry about whether or not you'll be able to afford your home payments next year?MaleFemale
Regularly/Somewhat/Rarely (net)39%55%
Don't know6%1%

For example, men were substantially more likely to know what type of mortgage they had (80 percent) compared to women (69 percent).


Women (55 percent) also are more likely to worry about how they will make house payments in the next year than men (39 percent). In fact, more than half of men (54 percent) said they never worry about their ability to make their house payments over the next 12 months.

Wade speculated that these differences may be due to historical gender roles that still hold true in many cases today.

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