Survey Reports Financial Capability of Each State

June 4, 2013 ( – The FINRA Investor Education Foundation, or FINRA Foundation, has released the results of a survey that examined the financial capability of each state.

The “America’s State-by-State Financial Capability Survey” found significant disparities across state lines and demographic groups:

  • Residents of California, Massachusetts and New Jersey were found to be the most financially capable. Those states ranked in the top five among all states in at least three of five measures of financial capability.
  • Mississippi stood out as the least financially capable state, placing in the bottom five in four out of five measures. Arkansas ranked in the bottom five in three out of five measures, and Kentucky ranked in the bottom five in two out of five measures.
  • Younger Americans, especially age 34 and under, are more likely to show signs of financial stress, including taking a loan or hardship withdrawal from their retirement account or making late mortgage payments.
  • Younger Americans are likelier than older ones to have unpaid medical bills, with 31% of Americans ages 18 to 34 reported having unpaid medical bills, compared with 17% of those 55 or older.

“This survey reveals that many Americans continue to struggle to make ends meet, plan ahead and make sound financial decisions—and that financial literacy levels remain low, especially among our youngest workers,” said FINRA Foundation Chairman Richard Ketchum. “No matter how you slice and dice it, this rich, new dataset underscores the need for us to continue to explore innovative ways to build financial capability among consumers.”

The five measures of financial capability used by the survey to rank the states measure how well Americans are managing their day-to-day finances and saving for the future. The national averages among survey respondents for these key measures are:

  • Fewer than half (41%) of Americans surveyed reported spending less than their income.
  • More than a quarter (26%) of Americans reported having unpaid medical bills.
  • More than half of Americans (56%) do not have rainy-day savings to cover three months of unanticipated financial emergencies.
  • Over a third of Americans (34%) reported paying only the minimum credit card payment during the past year.
  • On a test of five basic financial literacy questions, the national average was 2.88 correct answers.

The state-by-state results break down financial decisions and literacy by gender, age bracket and region, and highlight how a lack of financial capability has disadvantaged many Americans. The survey results also include data on how Americans make ends meet, plan ahead and manage financial products. A clickable map of the United States is available, allowing the public, policymakers and researchers to view and compare the financial capabilities of Americans across all 50 states and the nation as a whole.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is an independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States.

The survey was developed in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, other federal agencies and the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability. The data were collected through an online survey of 25,509 American adults (approximately 500 per state, plus the District of Columbia), over a four-month period, July to October 2012. The sample used in this study was weighted by age, gender, ethnicity and education.

The survey results, as well as the full data set, questionnaire and methodology, can be found at