FINRA Investor Education Foundation Publishes “The State of U.S. Financial Capability”

Did you know that in 2018:

  • 19% of households spent more than their income?
  • 46% of individuals lacked an emergency fund?
  • 35% of credit card holders paid only the minimum on their credit cards?

In September 2019, the FINRA Foundation released data from its latest Financial Capability Study—one of the largest and most comprehensive financial capability studies in the United States. Among the findings, younger Americans, those with lower incomes, African-Americans and those without a college degree face the toughest financial struggles. More than 27,000 respondents participated in the nationwide study. Conducted every three years beginning in 2009, it measures key indicators of financial capability and evaluates how these indicators vary with underlying demographic, behavioral, attitudinal and financial literacy characteristics—both nationwide and state-by-state.

For more information, click here

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Ask students if they spend more than their income in a given year.
  • Ask students if they have a rainy day fund. If not, why?
  • Ask students if they pay in full when the credit card bill arrives. If not, why?

Discussion Questions

  1. What might be some reasons why almost one in five households spends more than their income?
  2. Why is it important to have a rainy day fund? Why almost half of Americans lack such a fund?
  3. Why is it vital to pay credit card bills in full? What are the costs of paying a minimum balance?

Successful Financial Goals

Financial goals are communicated in many formats, and are good to have. However, too often, a goal is lacking the “why.”  While various financial planning actions are beneficial, quite often, little thought is given to the motivation behind a certain goal. Without this “why,” minimal internal motivation is likely to be present to see a goal to completion. The “why” of a financial goal will help you persevere when encountering challenges that could derail your achievement of a goal.

Not being able to answer the “why” may indicate that the goal is not worth your efforts. The “why” will also assure that a goal provides a higher level of satisfaction when it is achieved.  The process may require a series of “why” questions as you respond to the initial “why.”

Instead of being an afterthought, the “why” of your financial goals should be a driving force in creating and achieving these personal economic objectives. Be able to decide if a goal is a result of advertising, societal influences, or reflective thought about your personal financial situation. This action should result in meaningful goals rather than just efforts to accumulate more money or more stuff.

For additional information on financial goals, click here.


Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to people to create examples of financial goals.
  • Have students ask a series of “why” questions to help other people to better focus their personal financial goals.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are common motivations that influence personal financial goals?
  2. How might a person better understand the motivation behind personal financial goals?

Quiz: What’s Your Financial SPF Factor?

“So put aside that beach read for a few minutes and take this quiz to assess your financial SPF factor.”

While most people recognize SPF as standing for sunscreen, SPF–as defined in this article stands for Save, Protect, and Fund.  After a brief explanation of each SPF financial term, the article asks 11 questions that someone can use to help gauge their financial knowledge and financial planning skills.

At the end of the quiz, you are also told how your answers stack up and then the article provides suggestions about how to improve not only your score, but also your ability to plan for your financial future and retirement.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Stress the importance of effective financial planning over your lifetime.
  • Begin a discussion about the benefits of long-term investments.
  • Review time value of money calculations.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can financial planning help you obtain your goals and objectives?
  2. Why should you begin investing sooner rather than later?
  3. A common problem for some people is they don’t have the money they need to begin an investment program. Given your current circumstances, what steps can you take to “find” the money to start an investment program?

Saver Survey

Each year, America Saves ( conducts a survey or its program participants to determine the attitudes and behaviors of savers.  The most recent study reports that:

  • People save mainly for their emergency fund, retirement, or repaying debt.
  • People in formal savings programs, such as America Saves, report saving larger amounts.
  • Married respondents saved much more than single respondents.
  • Females and males have different saving purposes; females favored saving for an emergency fund, males favored retirement saving.
  • Savers involved in America Saves are saving more, are more confident in their ability to manage their money, and are managing their debt better while feeling more optimistic about their financial situation.

The complete Savers Survey report is available here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to others about their savings habits and goals.
  • Have students prepare a graph to monitor their savings activities.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What actions can help encourage a person to have more effective savings habits?
  2. Why does being involved in an organized savings program result in more savings and better money management activities?

Financial Flowerpots

Many devices are used for effective money management.  One is called “the financial flowerpot system,” with each imaginary pot representing an account where you “plant” the funds for achieving a financial goal.  When you direct money into this account, it’s like watering and feeding your goal.

To fill up the “financial flowerpots,” start a regular saving and investing plan with the money automatically withdrawn from your paycheck or bank account.  This automatic savings plan may be viewed as an automatic watering system for an actual flowerpot.

Three main flowerpots are recommended:

1.  The Solutions Flowerpot is the emergency fund.  These funds are available to solve problems and have a financial cushion, giving you financial peace of mind.

2. The Retirement Flowerpot is to save for your future financial independence.

3. The College Flowerpot is for those who are saving for their children’s education or for their own advanced studies in the future.

Smaller flowerpots may be used for other financial goals.  For each flowerpot, set aside a savings amount each month that will grow to your desired goal in the timeframe you set.

For additional information on financial flowerpots, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students obtain information from others about the methods used to achieve financial goals.
  • Have students propose a method they might use to achieve a financial goal.

Discussion Questions 

1. What are the benefits of thinking of savings goals as financial flowerpots?
2. What are other potential savings goals for various household situations?

52-Week Money Challenge

Do you want to take the 52-Week Money Challenge? 

Before saying no, consider it is a simple way to accumulate $1,378 over the next year.  Before saying yes, realize that while it is easy to save small amounts at the beginning of the year, it becomes increasingly harder to save larger amounts at the end of the year on a weekly basis.   Take a look at the table below to see how your money accumulates each week.


image source


For more information, click here

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to:

  • Stress that even small amounts of money over time can increase the amount available for savings or investing.
  • Discuss how monitoring your spending habits can “find” the money that can be used for savings and investing.
  • Talk about the need for financial discipline when managing, saving, and investing your money.

Discussion Questions

  1. In the above table, you begin by depositing $1 the first week, then each week, the amount you save increases. Where can you find the money needed to fund this type of savings program–especially toward the end of the year?
  2. Assuming you achieved the 52-week challenge and you now have $1,378 dollars in the bank. Would you leave it in the bank, pay your bills, or invest the money?  Justify your choice.
  3. After completing one 52-week challenge, would you take another money challenge? Why or Why Not?

The Slacker’s Guide to Saving for Retirement

Whether retirement is coming soon or feels far away, it’s something you need to think about.

This article encourages students to make retirement planning a part of their budget and one of their financial goals.   It also points out the benefits of starting early—even if students can contribute only a small amount because of other obligations that include paying off student loans and other debt obligations, paying rent, buying groceries, and establishing an emergency fund.

A very good suggestion included in this article is to start by saving just $25 from each paycheck, and then increase the amount until someone feels they have reached a limit they are comfortable with.

Other suggestions include participating in a 401(k) account at work and using bonuses and salary increases to boost the amount contributed to your retirement account.

For more information, go to

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Encourage students to develop a long-term financial plan that includes retirement goals.
  • Discuss time value of money examples that show how small dollar amounts invested on a regular basis can help achieve long-term financial goals.
  • Launch a discussion about the different types of retirement accounts.

Discussion Questions

1.  Many people never begin saving or investing because there is never anything left over at the end of the month.  How can you find the money needed to begin saving and investing?

2.  Why should you begin to save for retirement now instead of waiting until later in life?