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商业 - 金融

不会理财让美国人付出高昂代价

Chris Matthews 2014年09月18日

一项调查显示,只有一小部分美国人知道复利是怎么回事。看来,美国人的确是理财方面的“笨蛋”。据称,美国人每年都会因为财务失策而损失数十亿美元,而这些错误是完全可以避免的。

    我们都听说过“每分钟都有笨蛋呱呱落地”这句话。

    那么,如果我说这句话显然低估了实际情况,大家会怎么想呢?美国卫生和公众服务部(Department of Human Health and Services)的数据显示,每分钟有7.6个美国人出生,而确凿证据表明其中有5个会成为理财方面的“笨蛋”。

    密歇根大学(University of Michigan)健康和退休研究项目发现,在50岁及以上的美国人中,只有约三分之一的人能正确回答三个简单的问题:复利是怎么回事?通胀对个人储蓄和投资收益意味着什么?一只股票和一只共同基金有哪些基本差异?

    一系列经济领域研究已经表明,美国人的理财知识欠缺程度令人震惊。其中最新一项研究来自经济学家本杰明•基斯、德温•波普和贾伦•波普,他们的课题是美国人在金融危机达到高峰时的再融资习惯。当时,美国财政部和美联储正在竭尽全力帮助按揭者进行再融资并利用低利率环境。这篇研究报告称:

    “对有些家庭来说,再融资是最佳方案,而且这方面也不存在障碍。但据我们估算,在这些家庭中,约有20%并未对低利率加以利用。据我们计算,对未能再融资的家庭来说,其当前贴现损失约为1.15万美元,这在消费金融领域算是个特别大的失算。”

    由于没有进行再融资,这些消费者的整体损失为54亿美元,想必整个美国经济也蒙受了同等金额的损失。而且这个数字实际上偏向保守。

    2008年,达特茅斯学院(Dartmouth College)金融学教授肯尼思•弗兰奇在他的研究中估算,为了“跑赢大市”,美国投资者每年都要支付约1000亿美元的手续费和其他费用,却不愿用这笔钱投资手续费较低,专门跟踪大盘的指数基金。2006年,哈佛大学(Harvard University)经济学家约翰•坎贝尔估算,由于在按揭融资方面决策欠妥,住房业主每年都要损失500亿美元以上。类似的研究层出不穷,从发薪日贷款到信用卡再到退休金融产品,它们的结论都是:财务知识匮乏让美国人多花了数十亿美元。

    曾在奥巴马政府中任职的凯斯•桑斯坦认为,政府政策应提醒人们避免这种可预知的高成本错误。在桑斯坦看来,美国应该制定法规,迫使银行在利率下降时让贷款再融资变得简单易行。虽然银行和按揭投资者不会非常喜欢这种做法,但有足够的研究证明,如果我们建立的机制能让人们更容易地在财务方面做出正确选择,就会有更多的人进行这样的选择。

    对美国的退休制度来说,这也是解决问题的好办法。普通美国民众每年在退休方面要浪费数十亿美元资金,却不能让自己未来的生活更有保障。私营公司基本上都已经放弃了养老金固定收益计划,但这并不是说这些公司不再承担责任了,企业还是应该设法让员工的退休生活变得尽可能舒适。这就意味着要建立自动注册和自动提高缴纳金额的机制,而且最重要的是,不要涉及高手续费基金投资。这也意味着企业需要确保员工可以凭借自己掌握的知识做出正确的选择。

    总之,还要更重视公共教育体系中的金融课程,以便让绝大多数消费者最起码能够理解复利这样的概念。也许,美国每分钟确实有5个笨蛋出生,但绝对没有理由让他们在接下来的人生中一直当笨蛋。(财富中文网)

    译者:Charlie

    We’ve all heard the saying, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”

    Well, what if I were to tell you that this is a gross underestimate? According to the Department of Human Health and Services, there are about 7.6 Americans born every minute, and there’s good evidence that about five of them will grow up to be “suckers” when it comes to financial literacy.

    The University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study found that only about one third of Americans ages 50 and older were able to correctly answer three simple questions about how compound interest works, what inflation means for one’s savings and investment gains, and the basic differences between a single stock and a mutual fund.

    In the latest addition to a body of economic research that shows Americans’ striking financial illiteracy, a study by economists Benjamin Keys, Devin Pope, and Jaren Pope examined Americans’ refinancing habits during the worst of the financial crisis, when the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve were doing their utmost to get people to refinance their mortgages and take advantage of low interest rates. According to the paper:

    “We estimate that approximately 20% of households for whom refinancing would be optimal and who appeared unconstrained to do so, had not taken advantage of the lower rates. We estimate the present-discounted cost to the household who fails to refinance to be approximately $11,500, making this a particularly large consumer financial mistake.”

    Altogether, this failure to refinance cost these consumers, and presumably the economy at large, $5.4 billion. And this estimate is actually on the conservative side of the spectrum.

    A 2008 study by Dartmouth finance professor Kenneth French estimated that investors in the U.S. pay roughly $100 billion per year in fees and other expenses in an attempt to “beat the market” rather than investing in low-fee index funds that track the broader performance of the stock market. And a 2006 study from Harvard economist John Campbell estimated that poor decisions concerning mortgage financing costs homeowners more than $50 billion annually. The list goes on, from payday loans to credit cards to retirement products: Americans spend billions more because of their lack of financial knowledge.

    Cass Sunstein, former Obama Administration official and promoter of government policies that “nudge” people into avoiding making such predictable and costly mistakes, suggests that we should institute rules that force banks to make it very easy to refinance loans when interest rates fall. While this approach won’t be very popular with banks or mortgage investors, there’s plenty of research that shows that creating systems where it’s easier to make the right choice about your finances will lead to more people making those choices.

    This is also good way to approach the problem of the American retirement system, in which average citizens waste billions of dollars every year without making their futures more secure. Private companies have basically abandoned defined-benefit retirement programs, but that doesn’t mean they should abandon the idea that they are partly responsible for making their employees’ retirements as comfortable as possible. That means setting up automatic enrollment, automatic escalation of their contributions, and, most importantly, not giving the option to invest in high-fee funds. It also means that employers need to make sure that their employees have the knowledge to make the right choices.

    At the end of the day, there also must be a greater emphasis placed on financial education in public school systems so that, at the very least, the vast majority of consumers can understand a concept like compound interest. There may very well be five suckers born every minute in this country, but there’s no reason they have to remain suckers for the rest of their lives.

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