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Each year, the NFCC’s Consumer Financial Literacy Survey provides a fresh look at the American consumer’s level of knowledge as it relates to financial literacy, as well as trends associated with personal finance behavior pertaining to retirement, savings, credit card debt, student loan debt and more.

The 2018 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll in March 2018 among 2,017 U.S. adults ages 18+ on behalf of the NFCC and is sponsored by BECU.

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Snapshot of Key Findings

Timely Bill Payments

The survey reveals that one in four Americans admit they do not pay all their bills on time and nearly one in ten (8%) now have debts in collection, both showing a slight increase from last year.

Most notable are the financial struggles of women, namely those within the Millennial generation:

  • The increased proportion of adults who do not pay their bills on time is driven largely by women between the ages of 18 and 34.
  • Nearly two in five women in that age group (39%) do not pay their bills on time, making them more likely to be subjected to late fees and other penalty charges, which can have negative impacts on their financial health.

Overall Americans are Saving More Compared to Last Year

Nearly three in 10 adults (29%) are now saving more compared to one year ago, particularly Millennials (18-34) and young Gen Xers (35-44).

There was a significant increase in the proportion of adults using a 401k plan to save or invest their money (37% vs. 32% in 2017). Gen Xers, adults ages 35-44 (54%) and 45-54 (49%), are particularly likely to have a 401k, while adults age 55+ are more likely to have investments/mutual funds and invest in IRAs than their younger counterparts.

Barriers to Home Ownership

Almost half (49%) of the nearly four in five U.S. adults (79%) who have tried to purchase a home have faced barriers. The pace of rising home prices in the United States is a top concern for potential homeowners.

Top 5 Barriers to Homeownership


Rising home prices (18%)


Spending Same or More (17%)


Existing Debt (14%)


Limited housing options within budget (14%)


Poor credit history (13%)

Spending Same or More

About half of U.S. adults (51%) are now spending the same as last year, while about 1 in 4 each report they are now spending more (24%) or less (25%) than before.Nearly 3 in 10 say they are saving more this year, a slight increase from last year (29% vs. 26% in 2017).