How are Americans faring with financial literacy in 2017?

Published: April 3, 2017 by Sacha Ricarte


Pay your bills on time, have cash set aside for emergencies, and invest your money for the future. These are the rules financial pros say people should follow if they want to build wealth. Straightforward advice, but for many people these milestones can seem out of reach.

A recent financial literacy study by Mintel shows that many Americans are struggling with money management and lack confidence in their financial knowledge, with just 19 percent of respondents giving themselves an “A” grade on financial knowledge.

The survey and other reports released recently shed light on how well Americans are handling their money. Here are some of the prevailing trends:

Young people are struggling. The Mintel study revealed less than 30 percent of Americans have an emergency savings account that equals 3-6 months of household income. Of that total number, 19 percent of iGeneration has saved for a rainy day, followed by Millennials (20 percent), Gen Xers (28 percent), Baby Boomers (37 percent) and World War II/Swing Generation (40 percent). Not surprisingly, people who make more money save a bigger percentage of their pay. People in the bottom 90 percent of the income scale save close to none of their pay each year, while those in the top 10 percent save close to 15 percent.

Most are not planning for the future. The majority of people are not doing everything they can to prepare for retirement, including meeting with a financial adviser to devise a plan, researching Social Security or even talking to friends or family about planning. Even more, 21 percent of Americans are “not at all confident” they will be able to reach their financial goals.

Parents plan more than non-parents. People with children have many demands on their money, and as a result think ahead and follow budgets, contribute to retirement accounts and hire a financial adviser to help them create plans and budgets. Consumers who don’t have children don’t have as many competing demands, but aren’t as sensible about following a financial plan. In Mintel’s study, just 10 percent of non-parents have a written financial plan and 26 percent contribute regularly to a retirement account.

Most people have a budget. Nearly one in three Americans prepare a detailed written or computerized household budget each month that tracks their income and expenses, but a large majority do not. Those with at least some college education, conservatives, Republicans, independents, and those making $75,000 a year or more are slightly more likely to prepare a detailed household budget than are their counterparts, according to Gallup.

The good news is, the majority of Americans are open to more financial education. April—which is Financial Literacy Month—is a great time to look at education efforts for your customers. Financial literacy won’t change overnight, nor in a year. Yet initiatives taken in schools, workplaces, and in communities add up.

What are you doing for your customers to build financial literacy?

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