Report: Ohioans lacking financial literacy, credit card payments


COLUMBUS -- When it comes to basic financial literacy, Ohioans have a lot to learn.

A new survey shows that Ohioans are the fourth worst in the nation in terms of financial literacy.

That’s not all. Ohioans also are the fourth worst for making only minimum payments on their credit-card bill, according to the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s National Financial Capability Study, which is meant to measure how Americans manage their resources and make financial decisions.

The financial-literacy test consists of five questions, covering topics such as compound interest, inflation, mortgage payments, and principles concerning risk and diversification.

On average, Ohioans got 2.71 questions correct; the national average was 2.88. Only a third of Ohioans got four or more answers correct. Nationally, 39 percent of respondents got at least four answers correct.

The percentage of Ohioans getting three or fewer questions correct rose to 67 percent from 59 percent in 2009.

The survey showed that 41 percent of Ohioans reported making only the minimum payment on a credit card during the past year, compared with 34 percent of Americans, and 34 percent of Ohioans in 2009.

On the plus side, 47 percent of Ohioans say they pay their credit-card bill in full each month, up from 41 percent in 2009.

“Basic financial literacy remains low. It was low in 2009, and it remains low in 2012. That’s concerning,” said Gerri Walsh, the foundation’s president.

Cara Hill, the central Ohio division manager of Apprisen financial-counseling service, said she, too, is concerned about the results.

“We’re not very surprised with the answers, because we are saturated with the evidence on a daily basis,’’ she said.

The survey found other worrisome results, Ms. Walsh said.

For example, 38 percent of Ohioans have a rainy-day fund, up from 34 percent in 2009. Nationally, 40 percent of respondents have a rainy-day fund, up from 35 percent in 2009.

“It still means too many Ohioans and too many Americans don’t have emergency savings,” Walsh said.

The survey also found that, given a month, 40 percent of Americans could not come up with $2,000 if they had to.

“That’s frightening,” Ms. Walsh said.

She said what often gets consumers into trouble is that they have to use a credit card to cover an emergency expense, or they need a payday loan.

“That can lead to a cycle of debt,” she said.

Ohioans also were more likely than the national average to owe more on their house than what it is worth.

Ms. Hill said the results of the survey reflect how tough the recession was on many Ohioans in terms of foreclosures and lost jobs.

“Unfortunately, we were some of the more-severe victims of the recession,’’ she said.