Since 2004, every April the U.S. recognizes Financial Literacy Month to teach Americans healthy financial habits – yet they never feel better about managing money.
Thirty-nine percent of workers say their stress from finances increased since last year, and 46 percent say it hasn’t changed, according to voluntary benefits company Purchasing Power.
“Although the U.S. economy is healthy and the stock market continues to rise, employees are still stressed about their finances,” says Purchasing Power president Scott Rosenberg. “Many struggle to pay their household bills because financially-fragile employees don’t necessarily benefit from these trends.”
What causes our stress?
Just Americans’ day-to-day living expenses. You don’t need to be a millionaire to manage your finances, but most Americans don’t know the basics. In fact, Debt.com has previously reported that only one third of Americans feel their financial literacy is average. What we don’t know about, is stressing us out.
These are just the top stressors Americans deal with financially…
- 47 percent: Household bills, like our mortgage or rent, utilities, and transportation
- 43 percent: Lack of emergency savings for unexpected expenses
- 37 percent: Retirement planning
- 34 percent: Healthcare expenses
- 30 percent: High credit balance
- 29 percent: Credit card debt
- 25 percent: Loss of income, taking care of an elderly relative or a new baby
- 21 percent: Education – tuition, student loans or daycare fees
“The reason employees have financial issues usually points to a lack of financial literacy,” Rosenberg says. “In some cases, employees with financial issues don’t have healthy financial habits, so they don’t know how to resolve their situation.”
Which is why an awareness month was created. But having one month out of the year may not be enough to teach Americans how to manage their finances.
Is Financial Literacy Month effective?
Some financial experts question if anyone cares about it.
Debt.com’s chairman Howard Dvorkin feels that Americans know they have poor financial habits. He questions whether an awareness month leads to action.
“Let’s face it, many Americans are aware that they’re burdened with hefty credit card balances, auto loans, and student loans,” Dvorkin says. “Many recognize this even as they continue to run up their bills. They do it anyway.”
In that case, what will improve financial literacy in America?
Dvorkin suggests teaching financial literacy in all U.S. schools. It’s estimated that lack of financial education can cost the average American up to $30,000 over their lifetime. The average American also estimates they could’ve held on to $1,200 last year alone, had they learned how to manage money early in life. But most states in the U.S. don’t require public schools to teach financial literacy.
In fact, only five states in the U.S. require students to learn financial literacy before high school graduation. Those five are: Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. And they’re the only five in the country to score an A on Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy’s 2017 Financial Report Card.
Twenty-seven states in the U.S. scored a C or below, and nine states scored an F.
States failing in financial education
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
Over 90 percent of students and parents feel that personal finances should be taught in schools, according to a report from nonprofit organization Next Gen Personal Finance. In the future, Lawmakers may give these people what they want. But we can’t predict the future.
However, we do know how Americans expect to feel about their finances next year. Forty-seven percent predict their stress to stay the same, and 20 percent say it will increase.
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