Financial Literacy - Smart borrowing
Americans somewhat less clueless

For example, men traditionally have been in charge of handling many of the big financial family decisions, so they would be more likely to know the details of the family mortgage.

By contrast, women remain more likely to be in charge of managing the family's daily budget. This may help account for their increased concern about the family's ability to meet house payment obligations.

"She's typically the one doing the grocery shopping, taking care of the other kind of day-to-day household responsibilities," Wade says. "So, she would be more conscious of the impact that increased prices are having on the family budget."

What credit crunch?

This year's survey also asked respondents about whether the credit crunch had affected them personally. Just 14 percent said "yes," an indication that the crisis is impacting relatively few Americans.

The breakdown of those personally affected by tightening lending standards associated with the credit crunch was as follows:

  • Denied a personal loan: 7 percent.
  • Turned down for a car loan: 6 percent.
  • Reduced credit card borrowing privileges: 5 percent.
  • Inability to refinance a mortgage: 4 percent.
  • Frozen or restricted home equity line: 1 percent.

Respondents under the age of 50 (20 percent) are more than twice as likely as Americans over the age of 50 (8 percent) to say credit issues have affected them personally.

McGrigg says she was surprised that relatively few Americans are reporting problems associated with the credit crunch.

"The tightening of lending practices is something that many people anticipated," she says. "Perhaps consumers have just come to terms with the perception that it is just not a good time to borrow."

McBride says he is not surprised that so few respondents reported being affected by the credit crisis.

At any given time, only a small percentage of the population is in the market for a loan, he says, and an even smaller share would be negatively impacted by tighter underwriting guidelines.

"However the credit crunch has impacted nearly everyone by depressing economic growth, leading to more job losses and shrinking 401(k) balances," McBride says.

This national random-digit-dialed phone study of 1,004 adults 18 or older was conducted for Bankrate by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media. The surveys were conducted from August 8 through August 10, 2008. The sample was weighted by demographic factors including age, gender, race, education and census region to ensure reliable and accurate representation of adults in U.S. households. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3 percentage points for the full sample. For full results and methodology, download this PDF.


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