New National Opinion Poll from the University of Arizona: Two Years after Financial Crisis, High School Students Strongly


Findings Indicate Vacuum Left by Widespread Financial Illiteracy Filled with Negative Stereotypes

** Media Availability Teleconference Held Today at 2:30 p.m. ET **

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- A new national opinion poll of nearly 900 high school students shows that more than two years after the country suffered the massive financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, the majority of respondents harbor a significant amount of distrust toward banks, credit unions, credit card companies, businesses and investment institutions. This sense of distrust is compounded by a lack of understanding about the basic services and products of financial institutions.

“This poll is extremely revealing,” said Dr. Michael Staten, Director of the University of Arizona’s Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research, which commissioned The Financial Literacy Group consulting firm to conduct the survey earlier this year. “In addition to students’ lack of knowledge about the building blocks of personal finance, which we have seen for years in these types of surveys, it shows the next generation of American consumers now also actively distrusts many of the pillars of the financial services industry.

“Despite their strong suspicion of financial institutions, these students responded that they believe education is important to their futures and that financial success can be achieved with the right financial decisions,” said Staten. “This is a hopeful sign and it tells us that more financial education is needed. It may not yet be too late to defuse this sense of cynicism about all things financial, and to prepare these young consumers for the financial choices they will face in adulthood.”

Some of the poll’s findings include:

  • The majority of students responding to the survey (60%) believe that credit card companies often entice people into taking on more debt that they can handle.
  • Over 70% of students believe that businesses often try to “trick young people” into spending more than they should.
  • Only 25% of students disagreed with the following statement: “The stock market is rigged mostly to benefit greedy Wall Street bankers.”
  • Only 15% of students are aware that credit unions are different than banks with respect to their not-for-profit status.
  • Fewer than 1 in 5 students who responded to the survey (17%) disagreed with the statement that “Banks are mostly interested in getting my money through hidden fees.”

The poll was offered to students at 18 high schools in 11 states across the country, and 878 students completed the survey in January and February of this year. Respondents from all levels of high school were represented.

“While some organizations are making strong efforts in the field of financial education, overall not enough is being done to educate America’s youth about money, at school or at home,” said Dan Iannicola, Jr., former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Education at the U.S. Treasury Department and CEO of The Financial Literacy Group consulting firm. “But as these results show, just because we aren’t teaching about money, doesn’t mean kids aren’t learning about it. This survey asks the question ‘just what are they learning?’

“This isn’t just about bad PR for the financial services industry,” said Iannicola. “Adolescents with this level of distrust of financial institutions become adults who don’t open bank accounts, invest for retirement, insure against risks or finance important purchases like college educations or homes. This type of financial disengagement could push a generation of consumers away from mainstream institutions and toward risky alternative service providers or toward simple inactivity, which has its own perils.”

An executive summary of the study is available at

Media Availability - Dr. Michael Staten and Dan Iannicola will be available today, June 23, to answer media questions about the survey in a media teleconference scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET. Call-in information is below:
Call-in number – 1-866-218-6651 (for local Arizona callers: 520-626-8109)
Teleconference code – 981704

The University of Arizona’s Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research

The Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research’s mission is to create research-based educational outreach programs to improve financial literacy and help consumers to make informed financial choices in today’s complex markets. The Institute was established in 2003 as the result of a major endowment gift to the University of Arizona from the credit counseling agency Take Charge America. Since then, the Institute has developed an array of financial education outreach programs at the University. In addition, The Institute’s Family Economics and Financial Education program ( develops and continually updates a financial education curriculum for high school students. Provided free of charge by the Institute, the curriculum is being used by more than 12,000 teachers nationwide and reaches several hundred thousand students annually.

The Financial Literacy Group

The Financial Literacy Group is a consulting firm which helps companies, non-profit organizations and government agencies empower people of all ages and backgrounds with financial knowledge. Founded in 2009, the Group designs, develops, evaluates and implements financial education programs, materials and research. Its international team of financial literacy experts includes educators, economists, researchers, curriculum writers and former policy makers, from a variety of disciplines including education, personal finance, economics, consumer behavior, government, communications, and law.


The Financial Literacy Group
Betsy Holahan, 202-747-9490 ext. 7

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