financial literacy survey

Regional Study of Westchester & Southern Connecticut Students Examines Their Own Financial Literacy

A financial literacy survey of regional college and high school students across Fairfield, New Haven, Westchester and surrounding counties examined students’ habits in saving, using their credit and debit cards, their student loans and ability to effectively address budgeting and repayment needs.  The survey was conducted by Stamford, CT based Patriot Bank, NA. (

It found that among college and university students 61% say they rely most on the use of debit cards, while 17% turn most to credit cards and 22% prefer to use cash. 

For over half (57%) of high schoolers, cash is king, while 26% prefer debit cards and 9% have access to credit cards.

Of college students, 94% have a checking account, 79% say they maintain a savings account, 66% have a credit card, 12% have mutual fund investments and 42% have already initiated a retirement plan or a 401 (k). 

For high schoolers, 43% have a checking account, 76% a savings account and 43% have a college savings plan. 

Poll participants were divided into two categories, age 19 or older and age 18 or younger, with some specific questions based on age. The inquiry group included some older adults who have returned to college to pursue degrees. The majority (80%) of those 19 and older were enrolled at a regional college or university, while 20% of participants say they are attending high school.

Richard Muskus, Jr. President of Patriot Bank said, “Focusing more time and attention on teaching high school and college students to be financially literate is a building block to success and financial independence.  Lacking these skills can be become a life-long burden.” 

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas, who helped lead a financial literacy education program at Mount Vernon High School with more than 100 students said, “When we educate our young people by giving them this important financial know-how, we are empowering them to be our future leaders, creators of new businesses and an integral part of our nation’s economic future. I want to recognize Patriot Bank for its strong efforts to increase awareness about financial literacy.”   

Credit Card Struggles Begin Early – Student Savings Rates Range Nearly 60%

When it comes to credit cards 66% of those college-level participants surveyed had a credit card and more than 41% of them struggle to pay off that debt. 

60% of the college group said they regularly set aside savings and 40% say they do not save at all.  Younger survey participants, still in high school, reported a savings rate only  3 ½% lower at 56.5%.

Of the college students who regularly save for their future, 28% do so on a weekly basis; 36% do so bi-weekly; 28% commit to socking aside funds every month; and 9% say they tuck money away less than six times annually.

Of the high schoolers, 23% set aside savings weekly; 38% bi-weekly; 15% monthly and 23% save less than 6 times each year.

These findings by Patriot Bank highlight the significant importance of teaching fundamental financial skills, such as building a budget, understanding and controlling debt and planning for the future.  

“Earlier in 2017, Patriot Bank committed to wide ranging educational initiatives, inside and outside the classroom, aimed at young people as well as veterans,” said Mr. Muskus.  “We worked with veterans who went straight into the service out of high school without ever learning financial fundamentals, which put them at a disadvantage when it was time to reenter the civilian world.”

College Financial Aid, Loans & Perceptions on Repayment:

Of the college survey group, 41% currently have student loans.  When asked how long it would take to pay off their student debt after graduation, 16% said less than 5 years, 22% said between 6-10 years; and 7% said 11-19 years; and 11% said 20-plus years.

Just 56.5% of the high school participants expect to be applying for a student loan and 13% were still undecided they would require such loans.

More than one-fifth (22%), of high schoolers believe they will not need to apply for a student loan, with 9% stating that they did not have plans to attend college.

On October 1, 2017 the window for students and their families to apply for financial aid for the 2018-19 school year opened through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process (FAFSA) which can be found at

“Students and parents need to educate themselves about FAFSA because the financial stakes are so high,” said Patriot Bank Executive Vice President Judith Coprew, who heads community partnerships. “Providing young people with tools to make smart money management decisions is critical.” 

Patriot Bank published a 2017 financial literacy white paper, which found a need for greater financial education among young people.

According to the consumer site NerdWallet, more than 1.4 million potentially eligible students and their families didn’t fill out a FAFSA application last year or did so incorrectly.  It estimates that almost half, or 747,579, would have been eligible for some of the available $2.7 billion in U.S. college financial aid left on the table last year.

Geography, Household Income & Rent:

College students were also asked if they ever struggled to pay rent: 29% said yes; 44% said no; while 28% said they do not rent.

The respondents hailed from Fairfield (60%) and New Haven (12%) counties in Connecticut; Westchester (17%), and the remaining from Bronx, Queens, Dutchess, and Kings Counties in New York and Bergen and Monmouth counties in New Jersey. Ethnically, 46% identified themselves as non-Hispanic white; 28% were African-American; 22% Hispanic; 8% Asian and 2% other ethnicity.

9% of the older survey respondent group said their family household income was less than $20,000; 16% said $20,000 - $34,999; 15% said $35,000 - $49,000; 16% said $50,000-$74,999; 9% said $75,000 - $99,999; and 24% said $100,000 or more; while 11% were unaware of family income level.

Starting in spring 2017, Patriot Bank unveiled its latest series of financial literacy educational programs, which included dozens of events with students, military veterans and community and non-profit groups aimed at improving financial literacy. A complimentary copy of the bank’s White Paper: Patriot Bank Commitment to Financial Literacy can be accessed here:

Patriot Bank N.A. is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut and provides consumer and commercial banking services to individuals, government and nonprofit entities, small and medium sized businesses and professionals.  Patriot Bank currently operates 10 full service branches, eight in Connecticut and two in Westchester County New York. Patriot Bank was founded in 1994.

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