Are American adults financially literate? Can they make good money decisions? As educator that spends time educating Montanans about financial issues I often wonder how financially savvy Montanans really are. We now get to know the answer to this question, thanks to the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Back in 2009, the FINRA Foundation started conducting a triennial survey to measure and track American’s Financial Capability. The 2015 edition was recently released. Several items in the results caught my attention. Back in 2009, 23% of Montanans spent more than they earned but in 2015 that number was down to 17%. There can be some good reasons to spend more that you earn at some point in your life (the college years for example), but in general this is a poor habit. 23% of Montanans had overdue medical bills in 2015 down from 32% in 2012. In 2009, 31% of Montanan’s reported having a rainy account but by 2015 that number had risen to 41%, an improvement but still below the US rate of 46%. These statistics all point to a general trend of Montanans improving their financial situations since aftermath of the recession of 2007-2008. The survey also asks a set of five questions covering every applications of personal finance topics. 52% of Montanan’s got 4 or more correct, this is much better than the national average of 37%.
Joel Schumacher, an extension economics associate specialist in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University. Much of his research has focused on understanding the economics and public policy implications of small and community scale alternative energy projects. Joel also researches and provides extension training in retirement planning, saving and investing. Helping Montanans stay up to date on the ever changing laws and regulations affecting consumer issues is an interesting and challenging area.