Everything you wanted to know about money

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately. Since I returned to Durango in June, I’ve driven to Minnesota, Denver and Wyoming, where we watched the eclipse.

Driving also means listening to podcasts, and the Freakonomics episode “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Money (But Were Afraid to Ask)” (http://bit.ly/FreakonomicsAug2) featured a revealing three-question quiz, which originally appeared in the 2004 Health and Retirement Study.

Give the quiz a try and see how you do. Don’t worry, it’s multiple choice.

Question 1: Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2 percent per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow? A) More than $102. B) Exactly $102. C) Less than $102. D) Don’t know.

Question 2: Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account is 1 percent per year and inflation is 2 percent per year. After one year, would you be able to buy: A) More than today with the money in this account. B) Exactly the same as today. C) Less than today. D) Don’t know.

Question 3: Is this statement true or false: Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.

Check your answers at the bottom of the column. The creators of the questions designed them to assess adults’ understanding of basic financial concepts: compound interest, rates of return and risk diversification.

How did you do? Did you get all three correct? Only about 30 percent of American adults did.

The quiz has been given around the world with similar results. Annamaria Lusardi, one of the questions’ creators and a professor of economics at George Washington University, declared financial illiteracy at a “crisis level,” especially for the most vulnerable in our society – “the young and the old, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, the least educated and those living in rural areas.”

If you didn’t get all three questions correct or want to help someone you care about to be more financially literate, pick up the book The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Does Not Have to Be Complicated by Harold Pollack.

Pollack, a professor at the University of Chicago, but not a financial expert, created a set of rules that can fit on an index card. His blog post went viral, then became a book. Here’s a link to an NPR interview and a photograph of the index card that started it all: http://bit.ly/PollackIndexCard.

Personal finance doesn’t have to be complicated.

Now, those answers: A, C and false.

Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. www.personalfinancecoaching.com.