Here is a data point you may want to keep in the back of your mind when discussing financial literacy:

In a recent consumer study, 21 percent of individuals surveyed – including 38 percent of those with income below $25,000 – reported that winning the lottery was “the most practical strategy for accumulating several hundred thousand dollars” of wealth for their own retirement. In addition, 16 percent thought that winning the lottery was the best retirement strategy for all Americans, not just themselves (Consumer Federation of America and The Financial Planning Association, 2006).

Some may be tempted to interpret this as the Death of the American Dream, and evidence that people are hopeless about their economic futures. But winning the lottery as the best retirement strategy for all Americans? I chalk this up to the phenomenon that no matter how stupid a belief is, if you know one person that ascribes to it then a survey will show that 1/4 to 1/3 of the population probably does as well. This includes the existence of witches and werewolves, and the fact that Saddam Hussein planned 9/11. That, and I blame the fact that people don’t understand the concept of a fair bet and thus, of course, an unfair bet. Talking about insurance with the average person can be shocking and illustrative. This is why auto insurance companies run commercials promising to be forgiving of accidents and generous with benefits and this is somehow persuasive to customers. “Where does that money come from?” I want to ask them…. “where does that money come from?”.

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