The latest findings from the FINRA Foundation’s National Financial Capability Study suggest that key measures of Americans’ financial capability may have plateaued after six year of substantial improvements. For the majority of Americans, financial capability, stability and confidence are no longer improving in step with the economy.
The NFCS was first conducted in 2009 and then repeated every three years, its aim to benchmark key indicators of financial capability and evaluate how these indicators vary with underlying demographic, behavioral, attitudinal and financial literacy characteristics.
In the three years since the 2015 study, Americans’ financial capability has not increased along with the continued expansion of the U.S. economy. Rather, it has settled into a static financial state, possibly signaling a “new normal,” according to the study.
Although all demographic groups are better able to cover monthly expenses and bills than they were in 2009, the study found that younger Americans, people with lower incomes and African Americans had improved less than older folks, those with higher incomes and other ethnicities.
Among white respondents, the percentage who spend less than they earn has remained steady since 2009 at 42%, while that of African Americans who are able to save has declined by six percentage points to 34%.
The 2018 NFCS replicated two components of the 2015 study: a state-by-state online survey of 27,091 American adults and an online survey of 2,003 Americans who had investments outside of retirement accounts.
Fifty-three percent of all respondents and 63% of millennials reported that thinking about their finances made them anxious. Forty-four percent of the sample and 55% of millennials said discussing their finances was stressful.
Single women are more likely than their male counterparts to feel anxious or stressed about their finances.