four years, the momentum has slowed in developing financial literacy programs, and even
regressed despite the clear failure of states to make much progress in educating Americans about
personal finance. 46
The statistics paint a compelling picture of the incredible depth of the financial illiteracy
problem. In one recent study, adults scored a “C” in financial literacy, and high school students
generally received an “F.” 47 Surveys conducted by various other interest groups included
questions about personal finance, basic math, and finance concepts. 48 In particular, the Financial
Literacy Education Commission’s yearly survey, conducted in 2009, found the following:
Almost half of Americans reported having trouble keeping up with monthly
[Forty-nine] percent of respondents said they had set aside sufficient funds
for three months in case of sickness, job loss or economic downturn.
[Forty-two] percent have tried to figure out how much they need to save for
[Forty-one] percent have saved for their children’s education, with one-third
of those using tax-advantaged savings accounts;
[Fifteen] percent of Americans are “unbanked,” which means they lack a
checking account. This includes roughly [thirty] percent of African-Americans and Hispanics. 49
In another study,
[Forty-nine] percent of Americans indicated that it was somewhat or very
difficult for them to cover their expenses and pay their bills in a typical
Roughly half ([fifty-one] percent) said they sometimes carried over a balance
on their credit card(s) and were charged interest;
[Twelve] percent reported that their spending in the past year exceeded their
[T]he majority of Americans do not have a ‘rainy-day’ fund for unanticipated
financial emergencies and are not adequately preparing for their children’s
college education and their own retirement. 50
These statistics demonstrate that Americans are not receiving the financial education they need to
assess financial products and plan for the present and the future. Yet we ask these same adults to
teach their children how to make better financial decisions than they themselves are capable of
making. By way of example, the fifteen percent of “unbanked” Americans may not be able to
Id. § 7267a(a)-(b).
46 See R.A., America’s Recession: It’s Over, ECONOMIST (Sept. 20, 2010),
http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2010/09/americas_recession (noting that the recession officially ended in June 2009);
COUNCIL FOR ECON. EDUC., supra note 12 (finding that only twenty-two states require high school students to take a course in
economics and only fourteen states require schools to offer a personal finance course). From the Council’s 2009 survey, three fewer
states require testing in economics, and no states have added personal finance course requirements. Id.
47 Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, How Ordinary Consumers Make Complex Economic Decisions: Financial Literacy and
Retirement Readiness 12-15 (Nat’l Bureau of Econ. Research, Working Paper No. 15350, 2009). The test takers’ scores are calculated
and then assigned a letter grade similar to the grades commonly assigned in public education. For instance, an “F” would be a score of
69 or below, a “D” would be a 70-74, a “C” would be a 75-79, a “B” would be an 80-89, and an “A” would be a 90-100.
48 Lusardi & Mitchell, supra note 47.
49 Harnisch, supra note 28, at 6.
50 PRESIDENT’S ADVISORY COUNCIL ON FIN. CAPABILITY, supra note 4, at 3; FINRA INVESTOR EDUC. FOUND., supra note 12, at 19-