In July 2016, FINRA’s Investor Education Foundation released the findings from its National Financial Capability Study. (FINRA’s press release may be found here: https://www.finra.org/newsroom/2016/americans-financial-capability-growing-stronger-not-all-groups-finra-foundation-study.) A summary infographic as to the study’s findings can be found here: http://www.usfinancialcapability.org/downloads/2015_Study_Infographic.pdf

The study suggests that, while in some ways Americans have increased their financial literacy, too many Americans are lacking in this area. For example, the study concluded that absolute levels of financial literacy are low, and financial literacy is slightly down from 2009 levels. In 2015, only 37% of respondents to the survey answered correctly at least four of five financial literacy questions. Only 31% of respondents were offered financial education.

Our take

It is possible that customers of today’s broker-dealers, as a whole, would score higher than the pool of individuals surveyed in connection with the study. This is because, in general, broker-dealer customers tend to have greater financial resources, and more access to investor education resources, including those provided by the broker-dealer themselves. However, the study is a useful reminder that broker-dealers need to be very careful to ensure that customers do in fact understand the products that they are buying. Investor suitability should never be taken for granted.