It’s been argued that the proliferation of user-friendly, highly accessible fintech tools has helped bridge the financial wellness gap in the U.S. However, the widespread lack of financial literacy here has remained a stubborn obstacle to financial inclusion. While new, mobile-based apps and offerings have led to increased participation among natural savers and investors and the more tech-savvy millennials, they have yet to make a meaningful difference to people who aren’t in the active habit of managing their money, even the higher earners among them. Income, education, and demographics don’t seem to make a difference in financial literacy.
In fact, when it comes to financial literacy, while the U.S. is the world’s largest economy, it ranks a miserable 14th globally in the proportion of adults who are financially literate: just 57 percent qualify as such, according to a study put out by the World Bank Development Research Group in tandem with the George Washington University School of Business. To put this ranking in perspective, that’s just slightly above Botswana’s.
Another study looking into financial capability in the U.S. published by FINRA Investor Education Foundation confirmed this state of affairs: 42 percent of individuals answered four out of five financial questions correctly in 2009; by 2015, that number had dropped to just 37 percent.
These findings should be noteworthy to HR departments across corporate America. As we discussed in the first two articles in this series, employers’ success is closely tied to their employees’ financial well-being. According to Salary Finance’s own Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellness, financially stressed employees lose sleep and, along with it, productivity in the workplace; they have a higher rate of job turnover, the cumulative effects of which, in turn, contribute to a loss of 11-14 percent of total salary cost for the employer, or almost $500 billion for corporate America overall. But more important is that financial worries can be physically, emotionally, and relationally harmful to individuals and their families, setting in motion a hard-to-reverse downward spiral.