Study: 36% of U.S. consumers feel equipped to make smart financial decisions

PROVIDENCE – Fewer than 4 in 10 U.S. consumers feel strongly that they have the knowledge to make “smart financial decisions,” according to findings from Webster Bank’s inaugural “Financial Empowerment Study,” an independent report that examines financial challenges and literacy of consumers.

The bank, which is based in Waterbury, Conn., but has branches throughout Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, also found that financial challenges and worries are more common among younger generations.

“Our survey found that over half of Americans are concerned about their financial situation and they don’t feel confident in their knowledge to address it,” Marissa Weidner, chief corporate responsibility officer at Webster Bank, said in a statement. “The study shows the importance of finance curriculum in schools in preparing consumers to confidently and successfully manage their financial future.”

Of the 23 states that mandate the completion of a personal finance curriculum to graduate from high school, six of them introduced those requirements in 2023, according to a news release.

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Just 27% of U.S. consumers report receiving any type of financial education in middle or high school, the study found. And while the impact of such courses is unknown, those who received financial education in middle and high school years are more likely to feel fully in control of their finances (49%) compared with those who didn’t (25%).

Other key findings from the study:

  • Nearly 65% of consumers said they are “not saving enough for retirement” and cannot save “like they should,” while 36% reported that when it comes to saving and investing, they “just don’t know where to start.”
  • More than half of Americans (55%) said they worry a lot about their financial situation compared with 32% who said they feel fully in control of their financial future.
  • Two-thirds of survey respondents (67%) said they are interested in tools and resources to help build their financial knowledge and/or more effectively manage their personal finances, compared with 81% of Gen-Z/millennials who said the same. And 41% of Gen-Z/millennials said they rely on social media for financial advice.
  • Additionally, 57% of Americans said saving for emergencies is a top financial priority, but nearly 31% said they do not have an emergency fund and only 23% said they have a rainy-day fund that could cover more than six months of expenses.

“It’s clear that there is interest in improving financial knowledge, however, there is a need for communities to do more to build and promote these important resources,” Weidner said. “These findings reinforce Webster’s commitment to making financial knowledge and tools accessible to all and ensure our communities are aware of the opportunities available to remain in control of their finances.”

The full report can be viewed here.