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Research Briefs for Financial Educators: IRAs, Financial Education and Two-Paycheck Families


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 for military service providers:

  1. 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 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.
  2. 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 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.
  3. Two-Paycheck Families. Pew Research Center investigated contributions of husbands and wives to family finances and household work. Five marriage types were studied: wife as sole breadwinner, wife as primary breadwinner, egalitarian, husband as primary breadwinner, and husband as 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. 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” with respect to housework, leisure time, and discretionary income.

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

Written by:

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

Photo by Mohammad Danish from Pexels


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.

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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