Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

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This report aims to shed light on the causes of the financial crisis by looking at the following question: How financially capable are Americans? If people are ill-equipped to make financial decisions, there can be consequences for the individuals themselves and for the economy as a whole. A new survey fielded in the summer of 2009 provides timely insights on this important topic. Financial capability is measured in terms of how well people make ends meet, plan ahead, choose and manage financial products, and possess the skills and knowledge to make financial decisions.


This paper was prepared for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and draws heavily from work done on preliminary releases of the Financial Capability Study together with Chris Bumcrot, John Gannon, Christine Kieffer, and Judy Lin. The author wishes to thank them and Michelle Greene and Dubis Correal from the US Treasury, as well as participants to the International Conference on Financial Education in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, December 2009, and the ASPE-NIA seminar on the Impact of Economic Crisis on Behaviors, Expectations and Well-Being Among Middle-Aged and Older Americans, Washington, DC, January 2010, for suggestions and comments. Ben Rump provided excellent research assistance

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Opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone, and not those of any institution with which the author is affiliated. ©2011 Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.

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Date Posted: 28 June 2019