NFCC Financial Literacy Survey Highlights Areas Of Most Urgent Concern As COVID-19 Reached United States

(WASHINGTON, DC) – As millions of Americans face the financial fallout surrounding COVID-19, they are turning to services and companies to provide relief. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling®(NFCC®) is one organization offering support and today released the results of the 2020 Financial Literacy Survey conducted by The Harris Poll among 2,004 U.S. adults ages 18+, which offers a unique snapshot of our state of financial health on the eve of the coronavirus pandemic known as COVID-19.

Sponsored by Discover, the survey found encouraging news regarding savings and awareness of the overall benefit of receiving expert financial guidance. Conversely, the results showed an increase in Americans who carry credit card debt from month to month as compared to the past eight years, as well as concern among a sizeable minority about long-term financial stability, including retirement savings.

On a broad scale, in response to COVID-19, NFCC is offering a program that will assist people with special arrangements for their credit card debt and other unsecured debt while also providing access to free budget and financial guidance. Discover is also contributing an array of consumer solutions across all of their products that may include assistance related to payments, fees, and interest.

“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact lives in so many different ways, the economic disruption has placed millions of financially vulnerable people in danger of the most severe hardship,” said NFCC President and CEO Rebecca Steele. “For those in need of trusted financial guidance during these difficult times, the NFCC has led an industry-wide response to ensure that people have access to safe and transparent solutions for their debt management challenges during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Seeking Financial Advice

As recent economic disruption has forced many households to make difficult budget decisions, it is reassuring that most U.S. adults (78%) agree that, considering what they already know about personal finance, they could still benefit from advice and answers to everyday financial questions from a professional. Additionally, if they were having financial problems related to debt, one-quarter of adults (25%), or over 62 million Americans i, indicate they would reach out to a professional non-profit credit counseling agency for assistance.

Debt Repayment Challenges

When it comes to the use of credit cards, 62% of people have carried credit card debt in the last 12 months. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) find it difficult to minimize their debt, primarily due to unexpected financial emergencies (19%) or reduction of income (19%). More than one in four (27%) admit they do not pay all of their bills on time, which is the highest proportion of those reporting past due payments since 2012. If they were behind on their debt, U.S. adults would most commonly prefer to be contacted by the debtor via email (29%) or phone call (22%), and more than half (52%) would prefer this communication to occur on a workday.

Financial Concerns

Although the majority of adults have non-retirement savings (70%) and save a portion of their household’s income each year for retirement (70%), when asked what areas of personal finance worry them most, the top response among U.S. adults continues to be retiring without having enough money set aside (13%), followed closely by insufficient “rainy day” savings for an emergency (12%). Notably, while these are the most common responses year over year, the proportions are at low points following highs of 18% and 16%, respectively, in 2017.

Anyone seeking answers to personal finance questions or in need of direct assistance with special repayment programs should reach out to a nonprofit credit counseling agency by visiting or by calling toll-free 800-388-2227.

Click here to view the 2020 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey.

About the Survey

The 2020 Financial Literacy Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and Discover Financial Services between March 9th and March 13th, 2020 among 2,004 U.S. adults ages 18+. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact

About NFCC

Founded in 1951, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) is the nation’s first and largest nonprofit dedicated to improving people’s financial well-being. With nearly 600 member offices serving 50 states and Puerto Rico, our NFCC Certified Credit Counselors are financial advocates, empowering millions of consumers to take charge of their finances through one-on-one financial reviews that address credit card debt, student loans, housing decisions, and overall money management. Make one of the best financial decisions of your life. For expert guidance and advice, call (800) 388-2227 or visit today.

About Discover

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a digital banking and payment services company with one of the most recognized brands in U.S. financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company issues the Discover card, America’s cash rewards pioneer, and offers private student loans, personal loans, home loans, checking and savings accounts and certificates of deposit through its banking business. It operates the Discover Global Network comprised of Discover Network, with millions of merchant and cash access locations; PULSE, one of the nation’s leading ATM/debit networks; and Diners Club International, a global payments network with acceptance around the world. For more information, visit

[i] Calculation based on U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 Current Population Survey (CPS), which estimates there are 249.19 million adults ages 18+ residing in the United States: 249.19M x 0.25 = 62.3M.