A recent survey from FINRA found “a significant disparity” in the financial capabilities of Americans on a state-by-state basis.

For example, citizens of New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire are the most financially capable. Those states ranked in the top five among all states in at least three of five measures of financial capability. Kentucky and Montana stood out as having lower financial capability than other states. Citizens of both states were among the least financially capable in at least three of five measures of financial capability.

And young Americans nationally were less financially capable than older Americans. For one thing, they were significantly more likely to engage in non-bank borrowing. "This study highlights how important improving financial education is for Americans, especially during times of financial insecurity," said FINRA Foundation Chairman Rick Ketchum in a press release. "While the current economic conditions can exacerbate the consequences of poor financial decisions, some states are still well ahead of others."

FINRA also launched a web tool that displays these findings on a state-by-state basis. The site has a clickable map of the United States and allows a user to see and compare financial capabilities of people across geographic regions.

Other findings included: Over half of all Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck; more than one-in-five Americans (24%) have engaged in some form of higher cost non-bank borrowing during the last five years, including payday loans or advances on a tax refund; and Americans, on average, were able to correctly answer just three of five questions about fundamental financial concepts.

The state-by-state financial capability survey, which surveyed more than 28,000 respondents, was developed along with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. This and other recent surveys will help guide FINRA Foundation financial education initiatives across the country. "The extensive and multi-dimensional information allows policymakers and researchers to look at individual financial behavior from various angles, and the state-specific data can be used to tailor new programs and policies to promote greater financial capability," Ketchum said.

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