In consultation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation commissioned the first national study of the financial capability of American adults in 2009. The overarching research objectives of the National Financial Capability Study (NFCS) were to benchmark key indicators of financial capability and evaluate how these indicators vary with underlying demographic, behavioral, attitudinal and financial literacy characteristics.
The 2012 Study—similarly developed in consultation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, other federal agencies and the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability—updated key measures from the 2009 Study and deepened the exploration of relevant topics. The 2015 Study continues in this vein.
The 2015 Study reveals interesting changes in key measures of financial capability over the six-year period since the baseline Study was completed, but it also reinforces the original finding that financial capability varies greatly by socio-economic status and other demographics, and that many Americans struggle to make ends meet, plan ahead and make optimal financial decisions.
The NFCS has evolved into a valuable tool for researchers and stakeholders interested in improving the financial capability and financial well-being of Americans, particularly under-served Americans, like minorities, women and those with lower incomes.
State-by-State Survey and National Findings
The State-by-State and National findings, data tables, methodology and questionnaires are available at USFinancialCapability.org, which features a clickable map of the United States and allows the public, policymakers and researchers to delve into and compare the financial capabilities of Americans across all 50 states and the nation as a whole. National and state-level findings summarized in the Financial Capability in the United States 2016 report are based on data from the 2015, 2012 and 2009 NFCS State-by-State Surveys, each of which were nationwide online surveys of over 25,000 American adults.
Military personnel and their families face many of the same financial management challenges as civilians. However, being in the military also involves unique circumstances and stresses that can make financial management even more difficult: deployments, frequent changes of station and prolonged separation from immediate family. Military personnel must also be vigilant about their credit ratings in order to preserve their security clearances. Fortunately, being in the military also provides advantages that can help individuals and families manage their financial challenges and take advantage of financial opportunities. The 2009 and 2012 Military Surveys—available at USFinancialCapability.org—illustrate how financial attitudes, behaviors and knowledge vary within the military by a variety of factors, including age, pay grade, service and component. The Foundation will release a report on findings from the 2015 Military Survey before the end of 2016.
The 2015 NFCS includes a supplemental online survey of 2,000 Americans who have taxable investment accounts. The Foundation will release a report on findings from the Investor Survey before the end of 2016.