A Week's Worth: Quick takes on the world of work and money

Job recruiters still upbeat on economy, US financial literacy is poor, Is $4 gas the tipping point for changing habits?

Last week ended with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing ground. The index fell 0.9 percent, extending its overall decline to four months in a row.

So serious is the problem of financial illiteracy, a recent survey has found, that almost no respondents could explain the ramifications of paying off a debt in monthly installments versus a lump sum. Only 35 percent of those interviewed by financial research provider TNS, Dartmouth College economists, and the Harvard Business School understood how compound interest is calculated. Eleven percent couldn't say whether they carry too much debt. The survey interviewed 1,000 Americans age 18 or older.

Instead of being intimidated by talk of a possible recession, the vast majority of companies apparently have no plans to drop or limit the recruiting of college graduates this spring, reports outplacement giant Challenger, Gray & Christmas. In mid-February, it surveyed hiring managers at 100 companies and found that not even 3 percent had canceled visits to campuses or job fairs. Only 12 percent said they expect to hire fewer grads than originally planned.

How pricey will gasoline have to become before you leave your car and take the bus to work, or pass up that trip to the mall? If the results of a new survey are any indication: $4 a gallon. The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association says two-thirds of respondents identified that figure as the "tipping point" at which they'll cut down. The other one-third said their driving habits turned conservative at $3.

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