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Are you middle class or Poor? Survey says

If you really want to know how the economy is doing, don't ask an economist. Ask someone who still aspires to be in the middle class. "Over the last four years, Americans' views in this poll have been consistently right about the economy," said Allstate CEO Thomas J. Wilson in a press release "Today, they are sounding the alarm bell that the economy is not on track for sustainable growth."

People surveyed may know more about the economy because they bear the brunt of it. Here's what a few of them said:

"The middle class has become a treading-water position..... Opportunities have been stifled in the past 20 or 30 years." -- Loren Cowdery, a graduate student who delivers pizzas in Bellingham, Wash.

"I feel sorry for my kids -- they're just getting out of college -- because they have nothing to look forward to. They're not going to have the ability in the near future to buy a home. There are thousands of people who are going to be stuck with their student loans." -- Tim Cooper, an equipment salesman who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

"Everything is going up, but wages are staying the same. By the time I retire, I hope I have Social Security, because other than that I've got nothing." -- Dale High, a 54-year-old trucker from Idaho.

The good news, though, is that almost everyone in America can still consider themselves middle class, especially now that they've lowered the bar.

Of those surveyed, 85% said they were at some level in the middle class -- 46% said they were truly in the middle, 26% said they were lower middle class, and 12% said they were upper middle class. Only 2% called themselves "upper class."

In a rare moment of optimism, those surveyed said they believe a typical middle-class family makes about $65,000 per year. Median household income, however, is just a little over $50,000, meaning half of all households make less than that.

Indeed, most surveyed blamed the government for their declining economic plights. According to the survey, 64% believe Congress is making things worse for the middle class and 45% believe President Obama is making things worse.

They also blamed big business, but to a lesser extent: 54% said CEOs of major U.S. corporations are making things worse for the middle class, and 55% said major financial institutions are making things worse.

Only 29% believe the nation is headed in the "right direction," down from 41% just last November. So much for the big vote.

Teach teenagers how to manage money and finances: You are worth millions you just don't know it

Most surveys that measure financial literacy focus on teenagers, and the results are always grim.

In research by the nonprofit Jump$tart Coalition, which promotes personal finance education, the average high school student correctly answered just 48.3% of the questions covering money basics in 2008. That was down from 57.3% a decade earlier, but even that score was hardly distinguishing -- anything less than 60% counts as an F.

A 2005 poll by Harris Interactive for the National Council on Economic Education showed that adults aren't that much savvier.

While teens on average scored a 53 (another F) on a quiz testing knowledge of basic economic and personal-finance concepts, the grownups' average score was just 70 (a C).

In addition:

More than one-quarter of adults failed the quiz.
Women were far more likely to fail than men; 42% scored an F, compared with 15% of men.
Men were much more likely than women to get an A or B on the test (51% compared with 17%).

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