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An International Study of College Students’ Personal Financial Wellness Perceptions

Zeynep Çopur 
Hacettepe University

Carolyn Bird
North Carolina State University

Abstract

This research is designed to explore personal financial wellness as a comparative study between American and Turkish college students. The Personal Financial Wellness Scale (PFW) scale (Prawitz et al. 2006) was used as a measure of financial wellness. Data (N = 1446) were collected from college students aged 18 and over via an online survey from North Carolina State University in North Carolina and Hacettepe University in Ankara. Preferred sources of personal finance information were first parents (71.7 percent) with Internet as second (59.2 percent) most relied upon. Means comparisons revealed significant differences in the financial wellness level by university and gender. Regression analysis showed that American students had significantly higher financial wellness scores than Turkish students. Significant differences were found in financial wellness between urban and rural childhood settings. Students living with friends in apartments/houses reported significantly lower levels of financial wellness than those who lived with parents. Age was negatively related to financial wellness. A new contribution to the literature is college students’ reliance on the Internet as the second-most preferred source of personal finance information. New and important also is the decreased level of a student’s perceived financial wellbeing when friends serve as sources for personal finance information.

Keywords

Financial wellness, college students, personal finance

Introduction

Generally, wellbeing is defined as a state of being healthy, happy, and free from worry. As the importance of financial health of individuals and families continues to grow, people often use the term “financial wellness” to mean the level of a person’s financial health. Derived from the definition of general wellness, financial wellness could mean a state of being financially healthy, happy, and free from worry and this could be the concept that should be addressed (Joo 2008). Personal financial wellness is a comprehensive, multidimensional concept incorporating financial satisfaction, objective status of financial situation, financial attitudes, and behavior that cannot be assessed through a single measure (Joo 1998). An individual’s personal financial wellness can be said to be “high” (or a person is “well”) when individuals are satisfied with their financial situations, their objective status is desirable; they have positive financial attitudes, and exhibit healthy financial behavior (Joo 2008). Previous studies have confirmed that economic status strongly predicts happiness and overall well-being in most cultures. People are happier when they are financially secure (O’Neill, Sorhaindo, Xiao, and Garman 2005).

A great majority of young adults today face substantial threats to their financial wellness (Shim et al. 2009). In the United States, the first ever National Financial Capability Survey found that respondents aged 18 to 29 had much lower financial literacy than older respondents. Twice as many of younger respondents answered interest rate and inflation impact questions either incorrectly or stated that they did not know (FINRA Investor Foundation 2009). A second iteration of the National Financial Capability Survey (2012) revealed that 18- to 34-year-olds had the highest usage of non-bank borrowing (43 percent), a form of borrowing associated with the most unfavorable interest rates and terms. This same group evidenced other financial conditions that tend to undermine financial wellbeing, including the greatest percentage of mortgages with balances that exceed the home’s market value (25 percent), have student loans (36 percent), and a continued inability to correctly answer interest rate and inflation impact questions with only 42 percent responding correctly (FINRA Investor Foundation 2012).  A study of Australian college students found them similarly lacking in the understanding of basic financial management concepts including the operation of interest rates, reconciling a bank account, and rectifying persistent credit card balances (Beal and Delpachitra 2003). Altintas (2011) examined the financial management capability of Turkish college students using a measure with 28 items measuring concepts in the five areas of general financial knowledge, financial investments, saving awareness and motivation, and portfolio management. The student responses were correct less than 50 percent of the time for all but eight questions.  Of the eight items with responses exceeding the 50 percent correct mark, at least two barely exceeded 50 percent mark including the question regarding the optimal use of savings (55.49 percent) and the operation principles of ATM machines (60.24 percent). Several studies have in fact found that a growing number of college students are finding themselves financially at risk because they misuse or mismanage credit cards and/or accumulate credit-card debt to pay for college (Lyons 2008). Notably, college students experience increased levels of stress and decreased levels of psychological well-being; thus, college students' financial wellness is negatively correlated with academic progress and health (Adams and Moore 2007; Nelson, Lust, Story, and Ehlinger 2008; Norvilitis and Santa Maria 2002; Rao and Barber 2005; Roberts and Jones 2001; Shim, Xiao, Barber, and Lyons 2009). Studies have focused on college students’ financial management practices and capabilities. Few investigations have focused on college students’ perceived financial wellness. As a result, this population has been largely overlooked when it comes to how they perceive their financial wellness in the present and future. Perceived financial wellness is defined as perception of one’s economic situation compared to one's necessary and desired economic situation (Leach, Hayhoe, and Turner 1999; Hayhoe and Wilhelm 1998). For this reason, the purpose of this study is to explore perceived financial wellness through a comparative analysis of American and Turkish college students.

Literature review

Most college students are at the age where they are developing the skills with which they build their present and future financial wellness (Leach, Hayhoe, and Turner 1999). Previous research indicates that individual characteristics such as gender, education, and marital status are correlated with financial wellness (Gutter and Çopur   2011; Joo and Grable 2004; Loibl and Hira 2007; Malone, Stewart, Wilson, and Korsching 2009). Leach, Hayhoe, and Turner (1999) examined factors affecting perceived financial wellness of college students from five state sponsored universities. They found that male and female students differ in the significance of factors affecting the mediators (comparison of economic outcomes and level of financial strain) and perceived financial wellness. However, students of both genders reported feeling that there was not enough money to buy something and that high levels of financial strain negatively affected their perceived financial wellness. Previous studies also have revealed that there is an important relationship between financial education and financial behaviors. Thus, financial education influences financial wellness through financial behaviors. (See, for example, Rao and Barber 2005; Lyons 2008). Lyons (2008) found that students who had taken, or were currently taking, a formal course in personal finance were significantly less likely to engage in risky credit behaviors. While the percentage-point impact of a personal finance course was less than that for some of the other factors, she concluded that formal financial education might prevent some students from misusing and mismanaging their credit in the future. In this way, her study investigated how the financial knowledge and behaviors students develop affect their overall financial wellness. Gutter and Çopur  (2011) explored the relationship between financial behaviors and financial well-being of college students while controlling for demographic and financial characteristics, financial education, and financial dispositions. They found that college students’ well-being was related to race, gender, school rank, marital status, income, debt, amount of student loans, financial aid, materialism, compulsive buying, self-efficacy, willingness to take financial risk, budgeting, saving, and risky credit behaviors.

Methods

Data and sample

The research was conducted at two public universities in Ankara, Turkey (Hacettepe University), and in Raleigh, North Carolina (North Carolina State University). Hacettepe, located in the capital of Turkey, is a large, comprehensive university with nearly 36,000 undergraduate and graduate students and highly selective admissions (Hacettepe University 2012). The Turkish survey respondents included 1,266 undergraduate students (60.8 percent female and 39.2 percent male) who were mostly of traditional college age (mean = 20.7 years, SD = 2.50; range of 18 to 40). North Carolina State University is located in the capital city of the state of North Carolina and is a research-intensive large public university with about 35,000 students. The North Carolina survey respondents included 180 undergraduate students (61.5 percent female and 38.5 percent male), with an average age of 20.7 (SD = 2.95) and ranged in age from 18 to 40. The characteristics of students in the combined sample are summarized in Table 1. The present study used a purposive sample to accomplish a combined sample across the two universities of students of similar characteristics (traditional student status) and age.  Data collection procedures were similar at both universities to allow for comparability. Students were emailed over a course of one month to request their participation; around 25,000 students received emails in Turkey and 3,983 students completed the survey. The overall response rate was about 16 percent. Surveys with missing values were excluded from the analyses. This resulted in a final Turkish sample size of 1,266 and usable survey rate was about 32 percent, which, while seemingly low for survey research, is consistent with the lower response seen in online surveys. Lower response rates can occur because email addresses may be incorrect, invalid, or the email server uses an anti-spam program (Lyons et al. 2005). In North Carolina 2,000 students received emails to request their participation; and 285 students completed surveys for a response rate of 14 percent.  Incomplete surveys reduced the final North Carolina sample size to 180, resulting in approximately 63 percent usable data.

Procedure

The research used a survey questionnaire to assess students’ personal financial wellness perceptions. The questionnaire was originally developed in English and translated into Turkish (including back-translation to check for consistency and accuracy). The Turkish and North Carolina researchers obtained Institutional Review Board approval for the study. Assistance from the Registrar Office for Survey Research was secured to obtain a random sample of and contact information for undergraduate students that met criteria (full-time, on-campus attendance) designed to target traditional students. College students were surveyed in North Carolina in the fall 2010 and in Ankara during the spring of 2010 using a web-based survey tool.  Students received an email which presented an informed consent document, and then after affirming consent directed the students to the survey instrument to participate in the study.

Measurement of variables

Dependent variable

Personal financial wellness. The Personal Financial Wellness Scale (PFW) (Prawitz et al. 2006) was used as a measure of personal financial wellness. This measure is designed to be a latent construct representing feelings about one’s financial situation on a continuum from lowest level of financial wellness to highest level of financial wellness. The PFW scale is an eight-question self-reported subjective measure of financial wellness. Internal consistency/reliability of the scale is reported as 0.96 (Prawitz et al. 2006). Questions in the PFW scale include  “What do you feel is the level of your financial stress today?” For each item, responses ranged from negative (1) to positive (10). Individual total scores can range from 8 (1 point on each question) to 80 (10 points on each question). Scores on the PFW were computed by adding numerical responses for each of eight items, then dividing the total by eight. Resulting scores could range from 1 (lowest financial wellness) to 10 (highest financial wellness). Validity and reliability tests for the PFW scale were examined for Turkish college students by Gutter and Çopur (2011) and were found to be an excellent fit for Turkish college students. In the current study, Cronbach’s Alpha internal consistency reliability was calculated to be 0.91 for the Turkish sample, .93 for the North Carolina sample, and .91 for the total combined sample. These results suggest that the inner consistency of the PFW scale is high.

Independent variables

Demographic variables. The study involved college students’ demographic variables of age, gender, and childhood place of residence as an urban or rural environment.

Financial education. This variable was measured with the question, “Were you taught about personal finances or personal money management in high school?” with response options of “yes” or “no.”

Preferred source for personal finance information. This variable was measured with the question, “In the last few years, where or from whom did you find the most useful information about personal finances?” and responses included “parents,” “friends,” “high school or college courses,” “internet,” “books, magazines and newspapers,” and “TV and radio.”

Analyses

We conducted bivariate analyses to compare the characteristics of students in both data sets and to compare personal financial wellness, overall and separately by gender. We used t-tests and Chi-square tests to identify statistically significant differences between male and female respondents in each data set and across the two samples. Ordinary linear regression (OLS) analyses of the pooled sample were conducted to test for relationships between geographic location and other independent variables on personal financial wellness. The final analysis describes and compares the results from the pooled data and includes also commentary on the separate results obtained in each research site. We also conducted normality tests because of the difference in sample sizes. To test normality, we conducted the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test; the p-value was .174 for the U.S. sample and .017 for the Turkish sample. The significance value of Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was greater than 0.05 for U.S. sample. The significance value of Kolmogorov-Smirnov Test considers greater than 0.01 for Turkish sample, since sample size was big for Turkish sample. We also use Skewness and Kurtosis values to examine the normality of both samples. Skewness and Kurtois values were +/-1 for both samples. According to these results it can be said that the data was normally distributed (Tabachnick and Fidell 2001).

Results

Comparing students’ characteristics

Table 1 summarizes the characteristics of the students by geographic location of the research site for both data sets, including gender, age, residence, childhood environment, financial education, and preferred sources of financial information. Consistent with our expectation, college students’ characteristics differed by country. Turkish students were more likely to be living with their parents (40.4 percent) and more likely to have grown up in an urban area (76.5 percent) as compared to North Carolina students. However, students in North Carolina were more likely to live in a residence hall or dorm (45.1 percent) and more likely to have grown up in a suburban area. Financial education did not show significant differences between the two samples. Most of the students in both samples reported not having a high school course in personal finance (92.2 percent in North Carolina, 98.9 percent in Ankara). Both Turkish and North Carolina students indicated that they received the most useful information about personal finances from their parents (78.4 percent for North Carolina, 70.9 percent for Ankara). New in this study is the students’ reliance on the Internet as the second-most preferred source of financial information. There was a statistically significant difference between two samples related to preferred sources for personal finance information. Turkish and North Carolina students differed on high school or college personal finance course, the internet, print media (books, magazines, and newspapers), and broadcast (TV and Radio) sources the as the preferred sources for personal finance information.

Table 1. Descriptive Tables of the Sample

Variables

U.S.-North Carolina (n=180) %

Turkey-Ankara (n=1266) %

Total (N=1446) %

Test

Sex

Female

61.5

60.8

60.9

χ 2=.028

Male

38.5

39.2

39.1

Residence

Hall/Dorm

45.1

32.7

34.1

χ 2=75.865***

Apartment, House, Condo (with friends but not with parents

34.6

19.8

21.5

Apartment, house, condo (alone)

5.6

3.9

4.1

Fraternity/sorority house

0.6

0.9

0.9

Live with parents

7.4

40.4

36.7

Other

6.8

2.2

2.7

Childhood Place of Residence

Suburban

55.2

2.3

8.3

χ 2=717.310***

Rural

28.2

17.6

18.8

Urban

7.4

76.5

68.6

It varied, I moved a lot

9.2

-

1.0

Do not know

-

3.6

3.2

Personal Finance Course in High School

No

92.2

98.9

98.1

χ 2=34.268***

Yes

7.8

1.1

1.9

Preferred Source for Personal Finance Information

Parents

78.4

70.9

71.7

χ 2=4.192*

Friends

21.0

37.3

35.4

χ 2=17.198***

High school or college course

17.4

16.5

16.6

χ 2=.078

Internet

38.3

62.0

59.2

χ 2=34.273***

Books, magazines and newspapers

12.0

43.4

39.7

χ 2=60.719***

TV and radio

6.0

38.0

34.3

χ 2=67.099***

Age

-

-

-

Min-Max

-

Mean

20.7

20.7

18-40

t=-.085

SD

2.95

2.50

Comparison of perceptions toward personal financial wellness

Results of statistical analyses comparing perceptions about personal financial wellness for both the individual items and combined indices are summarized in Table 2. The averages for specific items are listed for the total sample and for men and women, along with the averages for the combined indices. Overall, North Carolina (M=5.84) students were experiencing higher levels of financial wellness in relation to their personal finances than were Turkish (M=5.49) students. In addition, North Carolina (M=6.63) students reported higher levels of financial wellness with regard to “How often do you worry about being able to meet normal monthly living expenses?” and “How frequently do you find yourself just getting by financially and living paycheck to paycheck?” as compared to Turkish students (statistically significant differences between samples are indicated with superscript “a”). Even though, Turkish students (M=5.74) were more confident with the statement that he/she could find the money to pay for a financial emergency that costs about $1,000/1,000 Turkish Lira (TL) compared to students in North Carolina (M=5.59). But there were no statistically significant differences between North Carolina and Turkish students for this item.

Male students (M=6.41) in North Carolina reported higher levels of financial wellness compared to female students (M=5.51) in North Carolina but there were no significant gender differences among Turkish students on the overall index. Specifically, male students as compared to female students in North Carolina exhibited higher levels of perceived financial wellness on all of the responses to questions measuring financial wellness: “How satisfied are you with your present financial situation,” “How often worry about being able to meet normal monthly living expenses,” “How frequently do you find yourself just getting by financially and living paycheck to paycheck,” and “How stressed do you feel about your personal finances in general.” But there were fewer gender differences among Turkish students, an exception being the question “How confident are you that you could find the money to pay for a financial emergency that costs about $1,000/1,000TL?” Turkish male students (M=6.06) reported a higher level of confidence on this response than did Turkish female students (M=5.54) (superscript “b”). An interesting result, Turkish and North Carolina female students reported equal levels of (M=5.51) financial wellness on the overall index. Females in North Carolina reported less worry about being able to meet normal monthly living expenses and less frequently found themselves just getting by financially and living paycheck to paycheck as compared to Turkish female students (superscript “c”). Males in North Carolina (M=6.41) reported much higher levels of financial wellness than did Turkish males (M=5.45) on the overall index and on each of the items (superscript “d”). The greatest difference between samples was evident in responses to the question, “How frequently do you find yourself just getting by financially and living paycheck to paycheck?” Turkish students reported this experience much more frequently than did students in North Carolina.

Table 2. Comparison of mean values (and standard deviations) of ratings of North Carolina and Hacettepe by gender of respondent between Turkey and U.S.

Personal Financial Wellness Items

U.S.-North Carolina

Turkey-Ankara

Mean (SD)

Mean (SD)

Total (n=180)

Female (n=99)

Male (n=62)

Total (n=1266)

Female (n=768)

Male (n=495)

What do you feel is the level of your financial stress today?

5.77 (2.09)

5.68 (1.91)

6.03 (2.29)

5.66 (2.45)

5.65 (2.40)

5.66 (2.53)

How satisfied are you with your present financial situation?

5.42 (2.26)

5.23 (2.22)

5.77(2.27)

5.41 (2.52)

5.52 (2.50)

5.24 (2.54)

How do you feel about your current financial condition? b

5.29 (2.25)

4.91 (1.99)** b

5.93 (2.49)

5.12 (2.41)

5.11 (2.38)

5.12 (2.50)*d

How often do you worry about being able to meet normal monthly living expenses? a, b, c, d

6.63 (2.73)*** a

6.32 (2.74)* b

7.23 (2.56)

5.27 (2.55)

5.24 (2.49)***c

5.32 (2.65)***d

How confident are you that you could find the money to pay for a financial emergency that costs about $1000/1,000TL?b

5.59 (3.37)

5.22 (3.29)

6.20 (3.38)

5.74 (3.18)

5.54 (3.16)**b

6.06 (3.21)

How often does this happen to you? You want to go out to eat, go to a movie or do something else and don’t go because you cannot afford to?

5.72 (2.77)

5.51(2.62)

6.07 (2.90)

5.71 (2.65)

5.78 (2.64)

5.61 (2.66)

How frequently do you find yourself just getting by financially and living paycheck to paycheck? a, b, c, d

6.33 (3.06)*** a

5.85 (3.00)* b

7.11 (2.94

5.02 (2.67)

5.05 (2.67)**c

4.96 (2.67)***d

How stressed do you feel about your personal finances in general? b, d

5.98 (2.20)

5.70 (1.99)* b

6.45 (2.34)

5.72 (2.23)

5.78 (2.13)

5.60 (2.36)**d

Financial well-being average a, b

5.84 (2.14)* a

5.51 (1.99)** b

6.41 (2.19)

5.49 (2.04)

5.51 (1.99)

5.45 (2.11)

Note: * p < .05, ** p< .01, p< .001. Statistically significant mean differences, using t-test.

ª Difference between Turkey and North Carolina (total) is statistically significant (bivariate).

bDifference between men and women within country is statistically significant (bivariate).

cDifference between North Carolina and Turkey students for females is statistically significant (bivariate).

dDifference between North Carolina and Turkey students for males is statistically significant (bivariate).

Table 2. Comparison of mean values (and standard deviations) of ratings of North Carolina and Hacettepe by gender of respondent between Turkey and U.S

The results of the Chi-square model are presented in Table 2 and highlight on which variables male and female respondents differ.

Relationship between personal financial wellness and student characteristics

Table 3 summarizes the results of OLS regression predicting personal financial wellness for each country and for the pooled data. Among North Carolina students, gender and preferred source of personal finance information was significantly related to financial wellness. This result indicated that in North Carolina male students had higher levels of financial wellness than did female students.    North Carolina students who relied on the Internet for personal finance information had higher levels of financial wellness compared to those who rely on parents. Among Turkish students, age, childhood environment, and preferred source of personal finance were significantly related to financial wellness. Older Turkish students and students who relied on friends for personal finance information had lower levels of financial wellness as compared to younger students and those who relied on parents for personal information. Also, Turkish students who grew up in urban settings had higher levels of financial wellness than those who grew up in rural areas.

When data for both samples were combined, the results showed that location, age, childhood environment, and source of personal finance information were significantly related to personal financial wellness. Overall, Turkish students’ personal financial wellness were significantly lower than students’ in North Carolina. There was a negative relationship between age and financial wellness. Older students had significantly lower levels of financial wellness than did younger students. Growing up in urban settings was positively related to personal financial wellness; students who grew up in an urban area reported significantly higher levels of financial wellness than those who grew up in rural areas. Students whose preferred source of personal finance information was their friends reported lower levels of financial wellness compared to those who preferred their parents as source of personal finance information.  

Table 3. Predictors of financial wellness for North Carolina, Turkey and combined samples (N = 1446).

Variables

North Carolina

Turkey

Pooled Data

Male

.899 (.343)**

.079 (.125)

.137 (.118)

Age

-.127 (.072)

-.038 (.024)

-.048 (.023)*

Residence (Ref: Living with parents)

Hall/Dorm

-.602 (.715)

-.073 (.141)

-.158 (.137)

Apartment, House, Condo (with friends but not with parents

.183 (.708)

-.356 (.167)*

-.282 (.160)

Apartment, house, condo (alone)

.356 (.979)

.205 (.315)

.263 (.295)

Fraternity/sorority house

-2.347 (2.281)

.607 (.641)

.464 (.618)

Other

.429 (.977)

-.144 (.406)

-.071 (.358)

Childhood Environment (Ref: Rural)

Suburban

.302 (.400)

-.567 (.452)

.250 (.285)

Urban

-1.133 (.679)

.678 (.159)***

.659 (.154)***

It varied, I moved a lot (North Carolina)

.368 (.644)

n/a

.340 (.582)

Do not know (Turkey)

n/a

-.603 (.334)

-.603 (.335)

Personal Finance Course in High School

Yes

-.708 (.608)

.888 (.561)

.021 (.408)

Preferred Source Personal Finance Information (Ref: Parents)

Friends

-.614 (.416)

-.329 (.126)***

-.332 (.121)**

High school or college course

-.132 (.450)

.007 (.167)

-.071 (.157)

Internet

.951 (.351)***

-.006 (.132)

.142 (.124)

Books, magazines and newspapers

.098 (.534)

.090 (.134)

.047 (.131)

TV and radio

1.154 (.784)

-.018 (.134)

-.015 (.132)

Country Sample (Turkey=1)

-.658 (.262)*

Constant

7.936 (1.655)***

5.960 (.535)***

6.745 (.539)***

F

2.336***

4.288***

3.610***

R2

.217

.057

.048

Note: Unstandardized coefficients reported with standard errors in parentheses. * p< .05, ** p< .01, p< .001.

Table 3. Predictors of financial wellness for North Carolina, Turkey and combined samples (N = 1446). The results of the regression model suggest that being a U.S. male was significantly related to financial wellness, as was age and growing up in an urban area.  Relying on friends was negatively related to financial wellness and Turkish participants exhibited a lower level of financial wellness as compared to U.S. participants.

Discussion

This study explored personal financial wellness from a comparative perspective, comparing American and Turkish college students. It used data from a web survey conducted during 2010 in North Carolina and Turkey on college campuses to explore college students’ personal financial wellness. We will summarize the results first from the pooled data, then discuss the North Carolina sample, and then turn to the Turkish sample. For the pooled sample, independent sample t tests were used to compare the means of the outcome variables. The results highlight that there were differences between college students in North Carolina and Turkey related to students’ characteristics and personal financial wellness.

In general, students in North Carolina perceived higher financial wellness when compared to Turkish students. In both countries, these subgroups were more likely to seek personal finance information from parents and the Internet. Greater reliance on the Internet for personal finance information was observed in Turkey (62.0 percent) compared to North Carolina (38.3 percent). Even so, Internet usage was a significant predictor of financial wellness for North Carolina students. Previous research noted that male and female students differed on perceived financial wellness (Gutter and Çopur 2011; Leach, Hayhoe, and Turner 1999). Consistent with earlier research, we found also that generally, in both countries, male and female students significantly differed on perceived financial wellness. The gender differences in perceiving financial wellness were particularly strong in North Carolina: male students reported higher levels of financial wellness than their female peers, but there was little gender difference among students in Turkey.

OLS regression was used to identify the relationship of students’ characteristics and financial wellness. Consistent with bivariate results, country differences predicted financial wellness. These results indicate that Turkish students perceived lower financial wellness than students in North Carolina. This result cannot be attributed to differences in formal pre-college financial education since both samples reported no personal finance course (92.2 percent in North Carolina, 98.9 percent in Ankara) in high school. Differences in perceived financial wellness might be related to Turkey’s income level as a developing country compared to the United States as a developed country. In the pooled data college students’ financial wellness tended to be related to age, growing up in urban settings, and reliance on friends for personal finance information. Our study found that age was negatively related to financial wellness. Older students perceived lower levels of financial wellness when compared to their younger peers. Students who grew up in urban settings perceived higher levels of financial wellness than those who grew up rural areas. Students who relied on friends for personal finance information perceived lower levels of financial wellness when compared to those who relied on parents for personal finance information. The North Carolina sample indicated that gender and reliance on the Internet for personal finance information were positively related to financial wellness among North Carolina students. Male students and students who relied on the Internet for personal finance information had higher levels of financial wellness when compared to their counterparts. Results from the Turkish sample revealed that growing up in urban settings was positively related while living with friends in an apartment and relying on friends for personal finance information were negatively related to financial wellness among Turkish students. This indicates that students who grew up in urban settings perceived higher levels of financial wellness than those who grew up rural areas in Turkey. Living with parents and reliance on parents for personal finance information were associated with higher levels of financial wellness when compared to living with friends and reliance on friends for personal finance information among Turkish students. Turkish results support and are consistent with the findings of a previous study (Gutter, Copur, and Garrison 2010), which found that parents have a strong influence on college students’ financial wellness by transmitting personal finance information.

Implications of the research

Institutions of higher education can better serve college students by assisting them in building their financial literacy to support their long-term establishment and maintenance of financial wellness. Institutions of higher education have a stake in students’ financial wellness, as improving the financial wellness of college students could contribute to their overall wellness and career productivity. The implications of the negative effects of reliance on friends for personal finance information suggest that improving the personal financial management capability of a student may have a multiplier effect as he interacts with peers. A second implication related to the preferred status of the internet as a source of personal finance information is the need to educate students about trustworthy sources of information and how to evaluate potential sources of information when authorship may not be entirely clear, as is often the case for information found on the internet. To increase students’ financial wellness, educators and policy makers should ensure that educational programs improve financial literacy and promote positive financial behaviors among college students.

Summary

The results of this study help to further document understanding of differences in financial wellness of college students in two countries. Important contributions to the literature include the finding of the Internet as college students’ second most preferred source for personal finance information. The second significant contribution is the finding that college students’ perceived financial wellbeing is decreased by reliance on friends for personal finance information.  Third, different from the American sample, there were few gender differences in the Turkish sample with the exception that males were more confident about having the specified funds to meet an emergency.  Notably, there was no statistical difference by country in the financial wellness of females. There are limitations that should be considered in interpreting our results. First, this study focused only on perceived financial wellness and the effects of select student characteristics on financial wellness. Future studies could also examine cultural differences on financial wellness by using additional domains, such as household income, academic success, and life quality of college students.  Second, this study focused on subjective measures of college students’ financial wellness. Future researchers should consider culturally informed comparisons of both objective and subjective measures of financial wellness. 

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