Are we a nation of financial illiterates?” asks Stephen J. Dubner over at the Freakonomics blog. Yes, he answers. And no. High school students are getting more economics education than ever before, yet their basic personal finance competency is dropping.

Dubner interviewed Annamaria Lusardi, a professor of economics at Dartmouth, about financial literacy. It’s an interesting conversation, but I think she misses the boat. What she believes are the important things for kids to know are meaningless to those who don’t understand the basics of personal finance. It’s the same dry stuff that turns people off from financial education already.

What would you teach high schoolers about financial literacy?

Meanwhile, Free Money Finance writes that his real estate agent has never met sane people before. “I had a conversation with our realtor,” he writes. “I told her that we were looking for a good house at a fair price (she agreed that our first offer was more than fair given the current market) and she said she just didn’t understand that. She told us that her other clients simply ‘found homes they loved’ and ‘would pay whatever it took to get into them.’” This is a great post.

“You must not have any pets,” somebody wrote to me recently. “You never write about them.” I have four cats, and would have more if Kris would let me. (Just call me the crazy cat man.) But because of either chance or adept “parenting”, they’ve never cost us too much money. Not everyone is so lucky. Andrea at Queercents takes a look at reducing pet costs, especially medical expenses. She provides an overview of various programs (such as pet insurance and preventative care) that can help reduce the cost of keeping your animals.

Finally, Bankrate has published their Safe & Sound ratings, which offer a quick way to determine the relative financial strength of your bank. Bank failures are uncommon in the United States, but with a couple of recent high-profile examples, people are worried. Safe & Sound offers depositors a chance to get some idea whether their bank is on solid ground. (Note: this tool seems of dubious use to me. What do you think?)

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