The United States of America is the wealthiest nation in the world based on total wealth and production1. It is home to the most billionaires in the world2, the two largest stock exchanges in the world, technology to make both financial education and investing easier, and relative freedom that allows individuals to build wealth over time.
However, many Americans do not feel like they are experiencing any of these benefits. Fewer than 40% of Americans have sufficient savings to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense3. Roughly 77% of Americans are anxious about their personal finances4, and 58% feel that their personal finances are controlling their life4. These feelings of financial stress are not new. According to the Stress in America5 survey conducted annually by the American Psychological Association, money and finances have been a leading source of stress for Americans for many years. This is important to understand because, according to the National Institute of Mental Health6, prolonged stress can ultimately contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and mental health disorders (“5 Things You Should Know About Stress”).
While many people feel financial stress and have a desire to make it go away, they are not really sure where to begin. For example, a recent study conducted by The Ascent found that nearly half of Americans were not confident they knew how much money they should be spending now and how much they should be saving for the future. With this level of uncertainty, it may be difficult for individuals to feel they can take control of their personal finances. These findings may cause us to ask the question “Could some of the financial stresses be improved if people had access to good personal financial information”? We believe it can.
The goal of Elon University’s Center for Financial Literacy is to be a resource to students, faculty and staff, and the broader community to provide personal financial education as well as access to resources that benefit individuals. The motivation for this work is not because accruing wealth is the answer to all of life’s problems, but because money can make many of life’s passions possible. Many people emphasize passions and goals related to family, travel, hobbies, education, or service. These can be made possible through the wise use of financial resources. We believe nearly everyone has the ability to increase control over their personal finances, to make informed decisions, and – most importantly – to reach the financial goals that make their life’s passions a reality.
2 Tognini, Giacomo. “The Countries With the Most Billionaries 2021”, Forbes, Forbes Inc., 6 April 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/giacomotognini/2021/04/06/the-countries-with-the-most-billionaires-2021/?sh=1c1ce7ca379b
3 Konish, Lorie, “Just 39% of Amerians could pay for a $1,000 emergency expense”, CNBC, NBCUniversal News Group, 11 January 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/11/just-39percent-of-americans-could-pay-for-a-1000-emergency-expense.html
4 White, Alexandria, “77% of Americans are anxious about their financial situation – here’ how to take control”, CNBC, 5 October 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/select/how-to-take-control-of-your-finances/
5 American Psychological Association, “Stress in America 2021”, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2021/october-decision-making
6 National Institute of Mental Health, “5 Things you Should Know About Stress”, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress