WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–While Americans as a whole are feeling less financial stress, making
ends meet remains a daily struggle for millions — particularly women,
millennials, African-Americans, Hispanics, and those lacking a high
school education. These findings come from the National Financial
Capability Study (NFCS), released today by the FINRA Investor Education
Foundation (FINRA Foundation).
Additional details about the study will be announced today at 3:30 p.m.
at an event featuring Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin, U.S.
Department of the Treasury; Mary Jo White, Chair, U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission; Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director
Richard Cordray; Jane Rooney, Financial Literacy Leader at the Financial
Consumer Agency of Canada; and FINRA Foundation Chairman Richard
Ketchum. The event, hosted in conjunction with The George Washington
University’s Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC), will
take place at the University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, 805 21st
Street, N.W., Washington, DC.
The study measures four key components of financial capability: making
ends meet, planning ahead, managing financial products, and financial
knowledge and decision making. Drawing on a data set comprising
responses from more than 27,000 U.S. adults, the NFCS is one of the
largest and most comprehensive financial capability studies in the
Among the study’s most significant findings:
More than one in five Americans (21 percent) have unpaid medical debt,
and women are more likely than men to put off medical services due to
cost, such as seeing a doctor, buying needed prescriptions or
undergoing a medical procedure;
Nearly half of respondents with a high school education or less could
not come up with $2,000 in 30 days in the event of an emergency (45
percent) compared to only 18 percent for respondents with a college
Twenty-nine percent of 18 to 34-year olds with a mortgage have been
late with a mortgage payment, compared with 7 percent for the 55+ age
Hispanics and African-Americans are much more likely to use high-cost
forms of borrowing like pawn shops and payday loans compared to
whites—39 percent for African-Americans, 34 percent for Hispanics and
21 percent for whites; and
Only 37 percent of respondents are considered to have high financial
literacy, meaning they could answer four or more questions on a
five-question financial literacy quiz—down from 39 percent in 2012 and
42 percent in 2009.
However, the percentage of respondents reporting no difficulty in
covering monthly expenses and bills has increased from just over a third
in 2009 (36 percent) to nearly half in 2015 (48 percent), and the
percentage of respondents with emergency funds has increased from 35
percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2015.
“This research underscores the critical need for innovative strategies
to equip consumers with the tools and education required to effectively
manage their financial lives,” said FINRA Foundation Chairman Richard
Ketchum. “My hope is that policymakers, researchers and advocates will
use these findings to make more informed decisions about how to best
reach underserved populations.”
“The National Financial Capability Study is one of most important
sources of data to understand Americans’ personal finances,” said GFLEC
Academic Director Annamaria Lusardi. “It has advanced our knowledge of
both financial literacy and financial capability and made it possible to
study policy-relevant questions.”
The NCFS is part of a large-scale, multi-year project that provides an
in-depth, comprehensive understanding of financial capability and
behaviors in the United States. The first study was conducted in 2009,
then in 2012 and in 2015, and boasts one of the nation’s most inclusive
and in-depth representations of age, race, education and gender on these
topics. In addition, the data set allows for state-by state comparisons
of financial literacy, making it valuable to policy makers interested in
better understanding the level of financial capability in their states.
The survey’s full data set, methodology and related questionnaire are
available at USFinancialCapability.org.
State-by-state results are available for all 50 states and the District
of Columbia for the 2015, 2012 and 2009 survey years.
The FINRA Foundation supports innovative research and educational
projects that give underserved Americans the knowledge, skills and tools
necessary for financial success throughout life. For more information
about grant programs and other FINRA Foundation initiatives, visit finrafoundation.org.
FINRA Investor Education Foundation
Angelita Plemmer Williams,