According to a recent FINRA study, the financial circumstances of Americans have improved over the last several years—driven in large part by an improving economy and job market. For example, the percentage of survey respondents reporting no difficulty in covering their monthly expenses increased from 36 percent to 48 percent. This is very significant and 12 percentage point improvement.
However, some groups are still struggling, particularly blacks and Hispanics, those without a high school education, and women. Here are some sobering statistic: About half of respondents with only a high school diploma or no diploma could not come up with $2,000 in an emergency compared to 18 percent for those with a college degree.
Debt continues to be a problem for many Americans. More than one-in-five Americans have unpaid medical debt. Similarly, more than one-in-five Americans with credit cards have been contacted by a debt collection agency in the last year.
In terms of financial literacy, absolute levels are low; only 37 percent of respondents are considered highly financial literate—meaning they could answer four or five basic questions correctly on a five-question financial literacy quiz. And, financial literacy is down slightly since 2009.
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You may want to use the information in this article to
- Help students understand that many minority groups are still struggling even though economy and job markets have improved.
- Explain how people can improve their financial lives by saving even a tiny portion of their income for emergencies.
- What can be done to improve the financial circumstances of minorities?
- What might be some reasons that debt continues to be a problem for many Americans?
- Since financial literacy levels are so low, what can individuals, local, state and Federal governments can to improve financial literacy of all Americans?