Personal Finance

The Least Financially Literate States in America

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There are some things everyone has to learn in order to be successful. In school, we learn how to read, write and use computers at an early age because most of us have to do those things on a daily basis. Students practice, do homework and take tests so teachers and parents can make sure they understand these critical skills.

You know what else people use every day? Money. Everyone has personal finances, but not even half of the states require financial education courses or assessments in high school.

Some states aren’t very good at making sure people understand basic financial concepts, and it shows in their residents’ habits. WalletHub compiled a report ranking states by financial literacy, using education and banking data from several sources, including the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, U.S. Census Bureau, National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

States with poor financial literacy scores often had some of the lowest average credit scores, when comparing the WalletHub report to credit score data from Experian-Oliver Wyman Market Intelligence Reports. That’s not too surprising, since it’s easy to make mistakes with your credit if you don’t understand how it works.

Financial Weak Spots

Mississippi came out looking particularly bad. It’s by no means the only state that needs to improve financial education, but it’s the only one in the top three of all these metrics: highest high school dropout rates, most unbanked households per capita, smallest percentage of people with an emergency fund and most people with the least sustainable spending habits.

When weighing the education systems and residents’ money habits, these 15 states came out on the bottom in WalletHub’s study:

15. North Carolina
14. Delaware
13. Texas
12. Oklahoma
11. Alaska
10. Michigan
9. Arizona
8. Kentucky
7. Alabama
6. Rhode Island
5. New Mexico
4. Louisiana
3. Nevada
2. Arkansas
1. Mississippi

Ten of those states were also among the 15 states with the lowest average credit scores in the fourth quarter of 2013 (Mississippi was on the bottom of that list, too). The good news is it’s never too late to get money smart. By paying close attention to your bank accounts, spending habits and credit reports, you’ll learn what helps and hurts your financial standing. If you want to get a better handle on where your credit currently stands, you can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com. A poor credit score and bad savings habits aren’t beyond repair, but you can’t hope to improve without first understanding where you stand.

More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

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