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Written by: Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Martie Gillen, Ph.D., MBA, AFC®, CFLE, & Nichole Huff, Ph.D., CFLE

Personal finance research informs high-quality financial education briefings, publications, and 1:1 financial counseling with clients. Below are findings and implications from three 2023 studies relevant to military service providers:

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

The Investment Company Institute (ICI) studied the use of IRAs as a retirement savings vehicle. They found that more than 4 in 10 U.S. households owned IRAs. IRA ownership increases with age and household income. In 2021, only 36% of U.S. households made contributions to Roth or traditional IRAs. Instead, recent growth in IRAs has resulted primarily from rollovers from employer-sponsored retirement plans to traditional IRAs.

  • Implications: Low IRA contributions may be the result of a lack of knowledge about IRAs, confusion about regulations and eligibility requirements, and a desire to contribute first to employer retirement plans via payroll deduction. Personal Financial Managers can help clients identify ways to “find” money to voluntarily contribute to IRAs and answer process questions related to opening accounts, selecting investment products, and rollovers.

Financial Education

Urban (2023) explored state personal finance course mandates and U.S. high school students’ access to financial education. Data were extracted from over 10,000 online course catalogs. A key take-away was that 24% of the class of 2023 will complete a semester-long personal finance course as a graduation requirement, 17% will receive financial education within another required class, 38% have access to personal elective courses and 14% to electives that incorporate personal finance, and 6% do not have any access.

  • Implications: Findings of this study also indicate that financial education in U.S. high schools has expanded dramatically in the last four years [23 states guarantee personal finance courses as of December 2023]. This has implications for Personal Financial Managers who may find that young enlisted service members have a better understanding of personal finance concepts than service members during the past few decades.

Two-Paycheck Families

Pew Research Center investigated the contributions of husbands and wives to family finances and household work. Five marriage types were studied: wife as sole breadwinner, wife as the primary breadwinner, egalitarian, husband as the primary breadwinner, and husband as the sole breadwinner. Results indicated that, even when earnings are similar, husbands spend more time on paid work and leisure while wives devote more time to caregiving and housework.

  • Implications: The share of wives who earn as much or more than their husbands has roughly tripled over the past 50 years. The results of this study can serve as background information for discussions with clients about money management processes (e.g., separate and/or joint accounts), the division of labor within households, and issues of “fairness” concerning housework, leisure time, and discretionary income.

For additional personal finance research, findings, and implications, watch the OneOp 2023 Personal Finance Year in Review webinar.


Fry, R., Aragao, C., Hurst, K., & Parker, K. (2023, April). In a growing share of U.S. marriages, husbands and wives earn about the same. Pew Research Center. 

The role of IRAs in U.S. households’ saving for retirement (2023, February). Investment Company Institute. ICI Research Perspective, 29(1). 

Urban, C. (2023). Financial education in high schools across America: Trends and statistics. Montana State University, 1-16. 

Photo by Mohammad Danish from Pexels