Visa research finds low emergency funds across income levels

More than two-thirds of Americans lack the cash to survive for more than three months after an unexpected illness or job loss, according to research commissioned by Visa Inc. and Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine. The companies unveiled the results of the 2012 Global Financial Literacy Barometer at an annual financial literacy summit sponsored by Visa and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, according to PR Newswire.

A lack of emergency funds extends farther into the middle and upper classes than consumers might imagine. According to the study's findings, a quarter of respondents with small cash reserves "fall into high income categories." Of 28 countries included in the study, Brazil ranked the highest in financial literacy. Mexico, Australia, the United States, and Canada rounded out the top five.

Financial literacy concerns have spread around the world, with respondents in half the participating countries stating that they worry young consumers haven't prepared for money management responsibilities. Consumers told researchers that they believe young adults don't know how to budget or save properly. In the United States, respondents felt that parents don't speak to their children about money as often as they should.

The study's findings echo an academic report from the University of Houston Law Center, revealing that many young Americans report student loan disbursements as income to qualify for student credit cards.

In a statement to reporters, Visa spokesman Oliver Jenkyn reiterated his company's commitment to helping Americans improve their financial literacy. "The Barometer clearly demonstrates that while there have been great strides made in advancing financial education, there is still much more to be done," Jenkyn said.

In tandem with the financial literacy summit, Visa released a new personal finance high school curriculum that covers key skills such as borrowing, saving, budgeting and insurance. Educators can download Visa's "Practical Money Skills" materials as an iPad e-book from Apple's iBookstore, or through Visa's website as a PDF file.