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The Most (and Least) Financially Literate States in America

When it comes to financial literacy, American should know better. Perhaps they do know better, but if actions speak louder than words, then they are going to have to turn up the volume.

| BY Donald Liebenson

When it comes to financial literacy, American should know better. Perhaps they do know better, but if actions speak louder than words, then they are going to have to turn up the volume.

According to Gen Y Planning, a financial planning website, only four-in-ten American adults keep a budget and track their spending. Three-fourths of American families report living paycheck to paycheck, while half have less than three months worth of expenses saved (less than three-in-ten have no savings at all).

Across America, some states are more financially literate than others. WalletHub recently studied the financial education programs and consumer habits in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine which areas of the country whose residents are most likely to have a financially secure future,

The most financially literate states in America, according to WalletHub are (in ascending order):




North Dakota

South Dakota


New Jersey



New Hampshire

At the other end of the spectrem are:






Rhode Island

New Mexico





Financial literacy is highly prized by Affluent investors, according to Spectrem’s Millionaire Corner research that find a correlation between wealth and confidence in one’s financial knowledge. Four-in-ten Ultra High Net Worth investors with a net worth between $5 million and $24,9 million consider themselves very knowledgeable about financial products, compared with 22 percent of Millionaires.

Financial literacy also “correlates strongly” with positive financial behavior, according to FINRA studies that find those who receive the best scores on financial literacy quizzes are more likely to have established a rainy day fund and less likely to carry credit card balances incurring high fees and interest payments.

Arizona, the WalletHub study finds, can take bragging rights as the state with the most people who have a rainy day fund (Kentucky has the least), while Maryland and West Virginia residents can boast that overall they have the most sustainable spending habits.

What can be done to raise the financial literacy bar across the country? Keith Weigelt of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the experts who offered commentary on the study, considers financial literacy to be a “life skill” that “should definitely be included in public school curricula.”

Henry Levin, of the Teachers College at Columbia University, believes that financial literacy begins at home. “Parents should talk about the importance of financial literacy,” he states. “They should help students with practical problems they will face all of their lives such as budgeting, saving, the magic of compound interest, credit cards and their dangers, etc. Actions speak louder than words and actions combined with words work best.”

Related story: Financial Literacy a Parental Priority--Are Kids Learning?

About the Author

Donald Liebenson


Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.