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News Release
FINRA Foundation
George Smaragdis 
(202) 728-8988

FINRA Foundation Study Finds Millennials Struggle Financially

WASHINGTON—The FINRA Investor Education Foundation's new study,

reveals that millennials display low levels of financial literacy, engage in problematic financial behaviors and express concerns about their debt. Low levels of financial literacy hamper most millennials, with only 24 percent of millennials able to answer four or five questions on a five-question financial literacy quiz correctly. And among young millennials – those 18 to 26 – only 18 percent were able to answer four or five questions correctly. The results of the FINRA Foundation's new study were released today at the inaugural meeting of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans.

"Many millennials began their adult lives in the midst of the worst economic downturn in generations, and our survey reveals just how deeply and broadly the Great Recession has marked the financial lives of this generation of Americans. Unfortunately, far too many millennials trying to cope with these economic conditions have low levels of financial literacy and are wrestling with concerns about their debt," said FINRA Foundation President Gerri Walsh.

The Financial Capability of Young Adults paints a troubling portrait of this generation's behavior and attitudes in an era of high underemployment and unemployment, a sluggish economy and tight credit markets.

  • Almost half (46 percent) of millennials are concerned they have too much debt, slightly less but on par with gen Xers (50 percent) – but much higher than the 38 percent of baby boomers and 23 percent of respondents from the silent generation who feel they have too much debt.
  • Forty-three percent of millennials engaged in costly non-bank forms of borrowing in the last five years, like using pawn shops and pay day lenders. By contrast, 21 percent of boomers and 8 percent of the silent generation used non-bank forms of borrowing.

Somewhat surprisingly, The Financial Capability of Young Adults also found that despite the higher financial strain that millennials face, they express levels of financial satisfaction that are on par with gen Xers and boomers.

The FINRA Foundation's new study is based on an examination of data from the FINRA Foundation's National Financial Capability Study (State-by-State Survey), which was developed in consultation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, other federal agencies and the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability.

The data from the State-by-State Survey were collected through an online survey of 25,509 American adults (approximately 500 per state, plus D.C.), over a four-month period, July – October 2012. The sample used in this study was weighted by age, gender, ethnicity and education. However, as in all survey research, there are possible sources of error – such as coverage, non-response and measurement error – that could affect the results. The full data set, questionnaire and methodology are available at