This Personal Finance Quiz Stumps Most Americans. We Explain the Answers

Pop quiz!

Don’t you just love hearing those words?

I mean, as long as the quiz is only six questions long and doesn’t count for your final grade, amiright?

This personal finance quiz from GOBankingRates may not show up on your report card, but what you learn from it will definitely show up in your banking account.

There’s no time limit, ready? Go!

How’d you do?

Don’t feel bad: Out of 2001 respondents, 97% of Americans couldn’t get 5 out of 6 correct.

One interesting thing about the results is that men and women got the same average score but got a higher correctness in different categories.

There’s definitely something to be said for brushing up on the categories you’re a little weaker in, so let’s go through the answers and find out what refreshers you need.

1. What are the three major credit bureaus?

We’re off to a good start: 60% of people got this tricky question right knowing that TransUnion, Equifax and Experian are the three major credit bureaus.

A not-surprising 25% thought Visa, Mastercard and American Express were credit bureaus. While they are credit card companies and using their products can lower or improve your credit score, the companies don’t measure it like a credit bureau.

Who knew it best? Women 35 to 44 years old.

2. A 401(k) refers to a tax credit for retirement. True or False?

We’re slipping a little bit now.

Only 51% of respondents knew this question is false. It’s another tricky one, though, because a 401(k) is a tax shelter, not a tax credit.

A tax credit reduces the amount you owe in taxes, which can result in a bigger refund or just a smaller tax bill. Tax credits are nice, but only certain people qualify for them.

A 401(k) is great because it allows you to deduct cash from your paycheck so that it goes straight to investments without being taxed. That tax is money you’d be giving the government, but with a 401(k) you can put it away and let it’ll grow in your favor!

Who knew it best? Women 65 and over.

3. Of the following, what best describes what “APY” is?

This is where we fall off the rails.

APY stands for annual percentage yield. Now maybe if that was one of the answers more people would’ve gotten it right.

The correct answer was “annual rate of return accounting for compound interest.” Only 12.55% of people answered correctly.

It looks like 55% were obviously just looking for letters to fit the acronym because they thought it was “Annuity payout per year.” I have to admit, I got this one wrong.

APYs are the interest payouts used for investments, while APRs are the interest charges used for loans. Annuity payouts don’t have an acronym. And while we’re at it, you should know what an annuity is.

Who knew it best? Men 45 to 54 years old.

4. Income does not impact your credit score. True or False?

This one’s a little better but still sad, mostly because it’s the most straightforward question on the quiz. Only 40% of people got it right.

The five factors impacting your credit score are:

  • Payment history
  • Credit usage
  • Length of credit history
  • Credit mix & types
  • Recent credit

Income does not impact your credit score. You can be super rich and have a crappy credit score if you never pay your credit card bills. You can also have a perfect credit score but only $2 in the bank.

Who knew it best? Women 18 to 24 years old.

5. What does a CD offered by a bank stand for?

We’re heading back in the right direction! Almost 66% of respondents knew that CD stands for Certificate of Deposit.

But do you know what a Certificate of Deposit is? You give money to the bank, which then holds onto it for a period of time, usually six months to five years. At the end of that time you get access to your money again and to the interest it accumulated, the APY.

CD’s tend to have a higher APY than high-yield savings accounts. But unless you can predict the future, they may not be worth the risk of needing that money before it’s available again.

Who knew it best? Men 65 and over.

6. What’s the difference between a savings account and a checking account? Please select all that apply.

This one had two correct answers: 55% of people knew that checking accounts are designed for regular use, and 44% knew savings accounts are designed for investing longer-term.

The word “investing” was deceiving.

Turns out 30% of people thought only savings accounts can earn interest, which Penny Hoarders will know is untrue. There are great online banks that offer 1% APY checking accounts.

Who knew it best? Men 18 to 24 years old.

The Takeaway?

Don’t worry if you were tripped up by the wording in this quiz, but also know you have some work to do.

Ladies: We’re really up on credit scores and retirement, but we need to be putting more focus on optimizing our banking and investing in the here and now.

Gentlemen: You may know what banking products are, but you might want to check your credit score from time to time to make sure you’ll be able to get those financial products when you need them.

Jen Smith is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder and gives money saving and debt payoff tips on Instagram at @savingwithspunk.