NEW YORK (April 14, 2010) — The overwhelming majority of Americans haven’t taken advantage of the U.S. government’s programs to stimulate the national economy, according to a survey conducted for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants by Harris Interactive.
Nine out of 10 Americans (91 percent) said they haven’t capitalized on the job stimulus plan covered under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the housing stimulus tax credit of 2009 and Cash for Clunkers.
The AICPA commissioned the survey in recognition of April as Financial Literacy Month. In 2007 the Institute began conducting an annual survey of Americans to determine their attitudes toward their finances.
“The government’s stimulus efforts and the hard financial challenges people have faced over the past year emphasize the essential role financial literacy plays in our lives,” said Carl George, immediate past chairman of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, which seeks to help Americans become financially astute and achieve financial well-being. “Individuals can’t always control the events that affect their finances, but they can learn to control their finances. We want everyone to understand that financial literacy can and should be a major part of their lifestyle.”
Four percent of the survey respondents said they’ve taken advantage of the housing tax credit to buy their first home. That figure represents 5.1 million Americans[i]. The housing stimulus tax credit, which now includes homebuyers who’ve owned their previous residence for five years and are seeking a new principal home, expires on April 30.
Only 2 percent each said they applied for jobs through the stimulus program, and another 2 percent received rebates when purchasing new cars through Cash for Clunkers, the 2009 legislation that encouraged citizens to replace their gas-guzzling cars with more fuel-efficient vehicles. The U.S. government reported creating 608,000 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2009. The government also reported that Cash for Clunkers resulted in the sales of 680,000 vehicles.
The CPA profession’s financial literacy efforts encourage Americans to educate themselves and consider all financial decisions in the context of their individual circumstances, George said. “Americans potentially interested in a housing stimulus credit must consider basic questions: What does the program offer? How do the provisions relate to their own personal situations? Can they afford the mortgage payments even after the stimulus credit? What is the overall financial commitment? Does it make sense for them to apply?”
Sixty percent of Americans said they were delaying major decisions because of financial concerns. Interestingly, out of a list of nine, buying an automobile is the most common financial decision Americans are putting on hold (27 percent). Buying a home ranked fourth, behind “some other major purchase or decision” and medical procedures.
The National CPA Financial Literacy Commission oversees two programs to help Americans achieve financial well-being. The first, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy (www.360financialliteracy.org), educates Americans on how financial issues affect them at 10 life stages, from childhood to retirement. The free Web site, devoid of all marketing and advertising, includes tools and articles on homeownership and financial considerations of a job search.
A second campaign, Feed the Pig (www.feedthepig.org), created with the Advertising Council, encourages Americans aged 25to 34 to begin preparing for long-term financial security. Ad Council research has shown that individuals who have seen or heard a Feed the Pig public service announcement are more likely to change their financial behavior for the better.
In an effort to understand how the economic crisis has affected behaviors and attitudes among the general public, the AICPA participated in the Harris Interactive March 2010 Harris Poll Quorum telephone omnibus study. The interviewing took place from March 17 to 21, 2010. The Harris Poll Quorum is a bi-monthly survey among 1,009 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.
[i] Based on a total of 129,065,264 housing units as reported by the U.S. Census Annual Estimates of Housing Units as of J uly1, 2008.
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