Survey finds early financial mistakes have lingering effect

Mark Huffman | Consumer Affairs

For Cleveland Browns fans, the moment is seared into their collective memory: January 17, 1988.

It was the AFC Championship game against the Denver Broncos for the right to go to the Super Bowl. With less than two minutes in the game, Cleveland running Ernest Byner fumbled the ball as he approached the Denver goal line for what would have been a score-tying touchdown.

Denver recovered and ran out the clock. Game over. To this day, the play is known as “The Fumble.” Cleveland has not gotten that close to the Super Bowl since.

In a new report, Credit Karma says a “credit fumble” – a financial mistake – can have far reaching implications as well. After surveying 1,051 U.S. consumers between the ages of 31 and 44, it found that a financial fumble early in their adult lives can haunt their financial futures.

The survey found that about 68% of the consumers in the survey admitted to at least one major credit fumble before they turned 30. They either ran up a huge credit card balance or missed payments, resulting in calls from bill collectors.

Some mistakes you simply shake off, but the survey found 75% of those who experienced a credit fumble early in life felt the ramifications for years afterward.

Lack of education

It's somewhat surprising that there aren't more credit fumbles. Only 28% of the people in the survey said they got any type of personal finance education before they went off to college. Most who got any instruction in finance say they got it from their parents.

“Credit Karma’s Credit Fumble research quantifies a phenomenon that’s played out for too long in America, with young adults making unnecessary mistakes without the right financial education that have a big impact on their lives,” said Credit Karma CEO and Founder Kenneth Lin. “These early mistakes can have a lingering impact on the quality of people’s lives.”

There has been a concerted effort in recent years to improve financial literacy education. Many organizations, from credit card companies to non-profit institutions, are offering financial literacy education, imparting the knowledge and skills consumers will need to make the most of their money.

The task may not be so easy, however.

A survey conducted for Genworth Financial in 2013 found that more than half of Americans questioned think they know a lot about money. More than 50% gave themselves an A or B when it comes to financial literacy.

At the same time, they gave their fellow Americans, on average, a D.