Survey: 10 Least Money-Savvy States
If you constantly struggle with your finances, maybe you should blame the state you live in. A new GOBankingRates survey found that if you live in one of the 10 least money-savvy states, you’re less likely to have a bank account or retirement plan, you probably didn’t take a personal finance course in grade school, and you are more likely to have delinquent debts.
For its Money-Savvy States Survey, GOBankingRates analyzed state-level data in three categories important to financial health: use of banking services, saving and investing behavior, and financial education policies.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia were scored and ranked to find the 10 states whose residents are the worst with their money. Click through to see if you live in one of the 10 least money-savvy states.
Related: See the 10 Most Money-Savvy States
Ohio is below average in all three categories considered in this survey, and out of the three, its worst score is in the financial education category. The state has no mandated standards for the subject of personal finance and doesn’t require schools to offer the subject.
The saving and investing behaviors of Ohio residents also rank worse than most states due to a higher-than-average bankruptcy rate and higher-than-average rate of debt delinquency. Ohio residents also underuse important bank services like savings accounts and have a higher portion of underbanked and unbanked households than most states (27.2 percent). All of these factors put Ohio among the 10 states that are the worst at managing money.
South Carolina’s overall ranking is hurt most by its residents’ weak use of bank services. It is among the 10 worst states for its high rate of unbanked and underbanked households (36.1 percent), its high portion of households using alternative financial services (32.3 percent), and its low percentage of households with a savings account (58.2 percent).
The lower-than-average saving and investing habits of South Carolinians also dragged the state down in the overall ranking. South Carolina has the No. 1 highest rates of debt in collections (46.2 percent) and debt delinquency (6.5 percent), as well as the lowest percentage of households with a retirement plan (55 percent) of any state. South Carolina did score well for financial education because it requires high school students to take an economics course, but it still ranks No. 9 among the least money-savvy states.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia lands at No. 8 among the least money-savvy states due to having some of the worst financial education guidelines in the U.S. The District only has standards for economics courses, not personal finance, and high schools are not required to offer courses in either subject.
The underuse of financial services in the District also puts it among the worst states for money savviness. Over a third (36.6 percent) of the District’s residents are unbanked or underbanked, and the District also has a high rate of households that used alternative financial services. Even with a nearly average saving and investing score — due to high rates of enrollment in retirement plans and investments in stocks and bonds — the District’s residents still rank as having some of the worst money management practices in the U.S.
Alabama has the third-worst score of any state in the saving and investing category due to Alabamans’ poor financial behaviors like its underuse of retirement plans (59 percent) and investment vehicles like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds (29 percent). Alabama also has the second-highest rate of bankruptcy in the nation at 5.13 per 1,000 people in the second quarter of 2015.
For the use of banking services, Alabama was fourth worst, with high rates of unbanked and underbanked households and use of alternative financial services. With laws that require high school students to take both an economics course and a personal finance course, Alabama might be able to create more financially educated future generations. For now, however, Alabama residents’ poor saving and investing habits and underuse of important banking services make it No. 7 overall among the least money-savvy states.
Kansas has some of the worst financial education policies. The state lacks any standards or requirements for public schools to offer curriculum or courses related to economics or personal finance.
The state also ranks poorly for its underuse of banking services. Kansas has more unbanked and underbanked households than most states, as well as higher rates of using alternative financial services. Kansas also underperformed in the saving and investing category, particularly with its high portion of households that spend more than they earn (21 percent). Overall, Kansas ranks No. 6 among states with the worst money habits.
Oklahoma ranks low in all three categories of the survey. For banking, Oklahoma ranks in the bottom 10 states for ownership of savings accounts, with just 56.9 percent of its residents reporting owning one. Oklahoma’s scores for investing and saving behaviors are closer to average but still put it behind most other states.
Although Oklahoma has a standard personal finance curriculum that students are required to take, high schools are not required to offer an economics course. These factors push Oklahoma to No. 5 among the states whose residents are the least financially savvy.
Like Oklahoma, Kentucky scores poorly across the board, which makes it the fourth-least money-savvy state. Kentucky’s worst score is in the saving and investing category because it is among the 10 worst states for high debt delinquency, lack of retirement savings plans and fewer residents with investments. Kentucky residents’ lack of emergency funds is the state’s worst score, with nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of households reporting no emergency savings.
Kentucky also lands in the 10 worst states for all factors considered in the use of bank services category, which includes factors such as savings account ownership. Only a little more than half (53.5 percent) of Kentucky households have savings accounts. Kentucky’s weak financial education requirements don’t help; while the state sets standards for both personal finance and economics courses, it doesn’t require schools to offer courses in either subject.
Nevada has the second-worst score for saving and investing. It has the highest portion of households that spend more than they earn (23 percent), tied with Hawaii, which means nearly a quarter of Nevada residents are dipping into savings or going into debt just to make ends meet. This tendency is reflected in Nevada residents’ high rates of debt — over half (52.3 percent) of the state’s households have delinquent debt or debt in collections, resulting in the third-worst score in the nation. Nevadans also have the highest average balance of debt in collections, at $7,198.
Because it ranks worse than most states in the use of banking services and financial education categories, Nevada is the third-worst state for money management.
Banking services are underutilized in Arkansas, which is the biggest factor making it No. 2 among the least money-savvy states. Arkansas has the third-highest portion of underbanked and unbanked households in the U.S., with 38 percent lacking financial services vital to healthy money management. Over a third (34.4 percent) of Arkansas households have turned to alternative financial services, and the state has the lowest number of residents with savings accounts (45.6 percent).
Arkansas residents’ saving and investing habits are also worse than those of most other states, due in large part to more Arkansans living beyond their means (20 percent) and a smaller share of households with retirement plans (63 percent). Arkansas has financial education standards close to the national average because it requires high school students to take an economics course but it lacks any policies requiring schools to offer a personal finance course as well.
Mississippi takes the spot as the worst state for money savviness, and the ranking reflects the state’s broader economic issues. The state also ranked as the poorest in America in a 2015 24/7 Wall St. survey because of its high rates of unemployment and poverty.
With less money to live off of than other Americans, Mississippians appear to be struggling the most with saving and investing. Households in this state have the lowest rate of investments such as stocks and bonds and the highest percentage of households with no emergency fund (64 percent).
Close to half (47.3 percent) of Mississippi households are underbanked and unbanked, the highest percentage in any state. Mississippi households also have the highest rate of using alternative financial services (40.5 percent) and the second-lowest rate of savings account ownership (46.9 percent).
Mississippi’s financial education score is actually better than many other states, but that isn’t enough to help its overall ranking in this survey. Mississippians’ current poor money habits make Mississippi the least money-savvy state in America.
Methodology: GOBankingRates scored all 50 states and D.C. in three categories: (1) use of banking services, (2) saving and investing behaviors, and (3) financial education policies within the state, which was given half the weight of the first two categories. GOBankingRates sourced the most recent data, reports and surveys currently available.
For the use of banking services category, GOBankingRates sourced state-level data from the FDIC’s 2013 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households and evaluated states on three factors: (1) the portion of fully banked households versus unbanked or underbanked households, (2) the portion of households that reported using alternative financial services, and (3) the portion of households that reported owning a savings account. These factors contributed equally to each state’s score in this category.
For the saving and investing behaviors category, GOBankingRates considered six factors, which were weighted equally, to evaluate the financial habits of residents in each state. The first factor considered was (1) data from the 2014 Urban Institutes’ Delinquent Debt in America report, which measured rates of delinquent debt and debt in collection for each state. GOBanking
Rates used data from FINRA’s 2012 National Financial Capability Study to evaluate states on several factors: (2) households reporting on spending below, at, or above their earnings; (3) portion of households that reported owning a retirement savings account; (4) portion of households that reported investments in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds; and (5) portion of households that reported having an emergency fund versus those that did not. Lastly, GOBankingRates looked at (6) the rate of personal bankruptcies in each state in the second quarter of 2015, as reported by the FDIC, favoring states with lower bankruptcy rates.
For the financial education category, states were evaluated based on scores provided in the Council for Economic Education’s 2014 Survey of the States, favoring those with stronger financial education policies.