SDSU researcher studies consumer savings behaviors, goals

Farm Forum

Only half of all Americans have good habits when it comes to saving money, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Those in low to middle-income levels are even less likely to put money in savings, says assistant professor of consumer sciences Soo Hyun Cho.

The SDSU Agricultural Experiment Station scientist has analyzed the complex nature of savings behavior as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) study. “I’m most interested in the psychological and sociological factors that affect economic decisions,” says Cho, who has been working on the project since 2010.

A 13-member research team from land-grant universities including University of Florida, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland, and Pennsylvania State are involved in the five-year project that began in 2008. For her work, Cho was named 2012 Researcher of the Year for SDSU’s College of Education and Human Sciences.

Cho’s research collected data through an online survey, with over 800 respondents from across the nation answering questions about their finances. The data selected for analysis was from respondents between the ages of 24 and 66 with a gross income of less than $80,000.

Results revealed that parents play a role in the savings behaviors their children develop. Those respondents whose parents made saving a priority and discussed finances positively influenced the choices their children make as adults, cays Cho.

Additionally, using financial planners as a source of information also impacted adult behavior, according to the study results. Those who make spending plans, write goals and monitor their spending tend to save more regularly.

The next step will be to expand this study of low to middle-income to the general population, according to Cho. The researchers hope to establish causal relationships through experimental work. This will then help them determine the critical factors that can help change consumer behaviors, particularly decisions about student loans, housing and retirement.

For Cho, the push to educate young people about the importance of financial planning extends to the SDSU campus. She and two colleagues in consumer affairs hope to start a financial counseling center where students can get the help they need to make better decisions.

To view this and other articles found in the SDSU Agricultural Experiment Station 2013 Annual Report, visit