The Cost of Financial Illiteracy Part 1

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines illiteracy as an adjective with two definitions: 1) having little or no education; esp.: unable to read or write. 2) showing a lack of familiarity with the fundamentals of a particular field of knowledge. 

In this article, I will use the case of R&B Singer R.Kelly to emphasize the first definition; and America’s lack of knowledge concerning budgeting and saving to emphasize the second. 

The R.Kelly’s case is an American tragedy in more ways than one. R Kelly an R&B superstar that composing songs for Superstars like Michael Jackson (“You are Not Alone”), Britney Spears (“Outrageous”) and Whitney Houston’s (“Look to You”) and scores of other well-composed songs including (“I believe I Can Fly”) revealed to the world he has struggled with literacy all his life and that he is unable to read or write. 

Kelly’s situation is a sad one; yet he is not alone in his literacy, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million Americans- or about one in seven are considered illiterate. These Americans struggle daily with basic tasks, such as grocery shopping, paying bills, and understanding basic instructions. This means knowing how to create a budget or write out a workable savings plan is out of the question. America despite being one of the most educated nations in the world, has a major illiteracy problem. 

The cost of illiteracy to society in the United States in social and economic terms is $300.8 billion dollars in lost business productivity, lost earnings, welfare, crime health, and other social justice problems. 60-80% of those incarcerated in the U.S. are illiterate, 85% of children in the juvenile court system are not literate, 43% of Americans with low literacy skills live in poverty, every student who does not complete high school cost our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity. There are 7.9 million low-income children, birth through age 8 the United States, these are children of Generation Alpha and if current trends hold true, 83%, or 6.6 million of these children, are at increased risk of dropping out of high school because they can’t read proficiently by the end of third grade; by the way, private prisons systems plan their future bed count needs based on third-grade reading scores.