University of Georgia

Student-athletes lack financial knowledge compared to student non-athletes

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Student-athletes are less knowledgeable about their finances than student non-athletes, but they are more confident in their ability to manage their money and less stressed about their finances, according to a new study from a team including the University of Georgia’s Kenneth J. White.

The results suggest that student-athletes can use more support—and universities can do more—when it comes to helping them gain financial literacy.

“Even after controlling for the fact that athletes might be on scholarship and don’t have to worry about paying tuition, the student-athletes were way less stressed about their finances than the general student population,” said White, assistant professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

White, along with co-authors Megan Ann McCoy (Kansas State University) and Kim Love (K.R. Love Quantitative Consulting and Collaboration), mined data from the 2014 National Student Financial Wellness Study, an online survey of students. Their study was published in Sports, Business and Management: An International Journal.

The research is the first to examine key aspects of student-athletes’ financial well-being, including financial knowledge, finance-related stress levels, and financial confidence. The team worked with data from nearly 15,000 students, comparing varsity student-athletes with student non-athletes.

When student athletes had greater levels of financial knowledge, their financial confidence increased at a higher rate than student non-athletes, perhaps because in sports, practice creates confidence for games, the researchers said. If a student-athlete increases knowledge, he or she will be more confident—perhaps overconfident, in some cases, which can lead to risky financial decision-making.

Conversely, student non-athletes with high levels of financial knowledge may not be as confident as they should be and may not seek advice when needed or take advantage of financial opportunities.

Student-athletes should make time to take a personal finance course, according to White.

“It’s important that student-athletes understand that managing their finances is a big part of financial well-being over the course of their lifetime,” he said.

White also believes that universities can play a stronger role in educating all students, but particularly student-athletes, about financial well-being. Less than 4% of U.S. colleges and universities in the U.S. require students to take a personal finance course, according to previous research.

“We require students to take history and math,” White said. “Why not a personal finance course? It’s something that will impact their daily lives.”

The study is available online at