Financial Literacy - Families and Finance
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Poll: 92% say home is a good investment

The value of college

Most people (77 percent) believe a college education, regardless of cost, is the most important determinant of future success.

While college may be extremely important for getting ahead, people can still succeed without a degree.

"I can't tell you the number of people I know that don't have degrees that are out of work right now. A lot of the rank and file are getting eliminated, and if they don't have a college degree, they have nowhere to go," says Gilgen.

But a college degree isn't the only prerequisite for success, he says. "Two of the most financially successful clients of mine don't have college degrees. They have hundreds of millions of dollars and no college degree. So you never know," he says.

Regardless of cost, a college education is the most important determinant of future success?

Believing college is the right choice for your children is one thing, but paying for it is quite another.

Half of those surveyed are worried, either very or somewhat, about being able to afford college for a family member.

However, age impacted the anxiety factor. Just 39 percent of those over 50 are concerned. But six out of 10 people between the ages of 18 and 49 are worried.

Not ready for emergencies, retirement

Has the financial crisis really affected the savings behavior of Americans? The much-publicized national savings rate surged recently, but how many Americans are actually stashing money into savings?

According to Bankrate's survey, 44 percent of Americans say that they are saving about the same amount as they were before the crisis. Just 17 percent say they're saving more, while 36 percent are saving less.

Are you saving more, less or the same amount as before the crisis?

"The savings rate is not a measure of how much individual households are saving. It is an aggregate measure that looks at the difference between disposable income and total spending. Directionally it is useful, but in terms of pegging the actual percentage households are saving, it is not," says McBride.

"People who are good savers are more inclined to increase their saving, but people who have never saved are unlikely to change suddenly and start putting away money consistently," he says.

Meanwhile, employed Americans were asked what would happen if they experienced a job loss that lasted longer than six months and unemployment compensation were discontinued.

Only one-third (35 percent) say they have enough emergency savings to cover their living expenses for six months if they lose their job.

Are you worried about saving enough money for retirement?
Total worried:

Another 15 percent say that they would have to borrow money from relatives to cover living expenses, while 21 percent say that they would have to withdraw money from their 401(k) or other retirement account.

Twenty-seven percent admit they just wouldn't be able to cover their living expenses and could possibly lose their homes.

Similarly, Americans are generally unprepared for that longest period of joblessness -- the one called retirement. Overall, seven out of 10 say they are worried about saving enough for their golden years. That number goes up to 80 percent for those in the 30- to 49-year-old age category.

"I think that is refreshing," says D'Italia. "Hopefully it pushes people to do something about it. Not buying a lottery ticket, either," he says.

Regardless of age, income or education, people are anxious about their finances, mostly about being prepared for the unforeseen or the inevitable.

Maybe our collective angst will spur some action toward creating a sound financial future -- or maybe not.

Results are based on telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,001 adults, age 18 and older. The interviews were conducted from July 16 to July 19, 2009, under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Interviews were conducted on both landline and cell phones using random digit dial (RDD) sample. Sample demographics were weighted to match population parameters derived from the Census Bureau's 2007 Annual Social and Economic Supplement data. The overall margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for results based on the total sample, and plus or minus 5 percentage points for results based on employed adults. Results based on smaller subgroups are subject to larger margins of sampling error. In addition to sampling error, the practical difficulties of conducting surveys can also introduce error or bias to poll results. For full results and methodology, download this PDF.

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