21 Financial Literacy Statistics & Facts

The latest financial literacy statistics suggest that people worldwide still need guidance in handling their money. While financial literacy is essential for amassing wealth and avoiding debt, both youth and adults lack this knowledge. What is inflation, how to invest your money, and why do saving goals matter? These are just some of the questions that financial education answers. If you’d like to learn more about this vital concept, read further. Below, we will reveal 21 worrying stats and answer the most common queries on the topic.

 

Financial Literacy Statistics (Editor’s Choice)

  • The average rate of financial literacy in Europe is 52%.
  • 50% of adults worldwide understand inflation and interest rates.
  • The average score on the US national financial literacy test was 68%.
  • Montana residents know the most about handling personal wealth.
  • Minnesota has the highest literacy rate on money issues of 82.08%.
  • Americans over 51 years old represent the most financially literate age group.
  • Only 12% of Millennials have asked for professional help with personal finances.

 

 

1. Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK have the highest financial literacy rates.

In these countries, financial literacy among adults is at least 65%. In South Asia, there are low levels of financial literacy of 0-24%. Most African and South American countries have moderate financial literacy of 25-34%. In Russia, several Middle Eastern countries and some European countries, financial literacy stands at 35-54%

(S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey)

 

2. In Europe, the average economic literacy among adults is 52%.

Northern EU countries have the highest understanding of money issues, as indicated by the latest financial literacy trends. Germany, UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden note literacy of at least 65%. European countries with an average knowledge of how to handle money among adults are Greece (45%), Spain (49%), and Italy (37%). Bulgaria and Cyprus have financial literacy of 35% each, while Romania’s adults underperform with a rate of only 22%.

(S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey)

 

3. People in major economies have a better knowledge of fundamental financial issues.

The average rate of financial literacy in those countries, including Canada, Australia, and the US, is 55%. Per the financial illiteracy statistics, the situation is opposite among the major emerging economies. These have low rates, with the average being only 28%. Here, we must mention India and South Africa with knowledge rates of 24% and 42%, respectively.

(S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey)

 

4. Inflation and interest rates are the best-understood concepts worldwide.

About 50% of adults know about both. Only 35%, in comparison, understand risk diversification. A bit more (45%) of adults globally know about the concept of compound interest, according to financial literacy stats.

Figures differ drastically when we compare understanding between advanced and emerging economies. In major economies, about 64% of the citizens understand risk diversification. The rate is only 28% among the adults living in emerging economies. The difference between the rates is lower for the other concepts, yet not insignificant.

(S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey)

 

5. There’s a gender gap in financial literacy.

Men have higher financial literacy than women. About 35% of men got 3 out of 4 answers correct, compared to about 30% of women. Women also have higher ‘don’t know’ rates, according to the S&P financial literacy statistics.

While in advanced economies people are more understanding of all concepts in general, women still fall behind. There, nearly 60% of men got 3 out of 4 topics correct, while only 50% of women did the same. The situation is similar in emerging economies, despite the overall lower literacy levels. Equality between men and women exists only in China and South Africa, when it comes to financial knowledge, at least.

(S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey)

 

6. There’s an age gap in financial literacy.

Global youth financial literacy statistics show that people aged 15-35 are the most financially literate with a 35% rate. People over 65 are the least familiar with handling their money — 25%. The average in advanced economies is 56% among those under 35 and 63% among those aged 36-50. People over 65 are the least literate in this category too, with only 45% understanding the concept. Emerging economies also follow this trend, albeit with lower overall rates. 

(S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey)

 

7. Wealthy people understand money issues better than low-income individuals.

Globally, about 25% of the poorest 40% are financially literate, according to financial illiteracy stats. Over 35% of the wealthiest 60%, by contrast, are well-aware of how to handle personal assets. The difference is even more significant in advanced economies where about 45% of the poorest 40% are literate compared to 60% of the richest 60%.

(S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey)

 

8. Account owners can be financially illiterate too.

Globally, 60% of all people hold an account, and only about 38% of them are financially literate. These financial illiteracy statistics show that 62% of account holders don’t have relevant money-handling knowledge. In advanced economies, over 95% of individuals have bank accounts, and 57% of those are financially educated. In emerging economies, about 70% are account holders, and about 35% have money managing skills.

(S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey)

 

Financial Literacy in the US

 

9. Americans scored an average of 68% on the national financial literacy test.

The average score up to date is 67.94%, and the percentage of passing scores is 58.68%. Financial literacy high school statistics show that the average score among Americans aged 15-18 in 2019 was 64.94%. In 2018, it was a bit higher at 66.33%. While the percentage has dropped, the overall trend remains positive. In 2014, for example, it was lower by 4.73% or 60.21%, as indicated by the NFEC financial literacy survey.

(National Financial Educators Council)

 

10. Americans over 51 hold the highest average score on the national financial literacy test to date.

Their average score to date is 78.23%, higher than any other age group. US citizens aged 36-50 and 25-35 come in next with average scores of 77.54% and 76.27%, respectively. As the youth financial literacy statistics reveal, the average scores are significantly lower among younger Americans. The average financial literacy for youth aged 10-14 and 15-18 is 56.41% and 62.99%, respectively. Finally, the National Financial Educators Council results show that the average score to date for those 19-24 is 71.15%.

(National Financial Educators Council)

 

11. Most Americans give wrong answers to investing, setting personal goals, and credit building questions.

Only 44.27% knew how much money they would have if they invested $100 at the age of 21. The question focused on investment with an annual return of 7%. Approximately 46.33% knew how to set personal goals, and 45.89% guessed the first step towards building a good credit score. These are some worrisome facts about American financial literacy or the lack of it thereof.

(National Financial Educators Council)

 

12. Minnesota has the highest youth financial literacy by state.

In this state, the rate of economic literacy among young residents is 82.08%, as youth financial literacy statistics reveal. West Virginia and North Dakota complete the top-three list with their rates of 72.55% and 70%, respectively. States with the lowest knowledge on money issues are Arkansas (50.44%), Idaho (51.67%), and Mississippi (51.82%).

(National Financial Educators Council)

  

13. Most Americans were taught about saving in high school.

More than 70% (72.1%) were taught about saving money, checking accounts, and meeting long-term saving goals, according to financial literacy statistics. The concept of earning, including gross versus net pay, benefits, and taxes, was taught to 70% of high school students. Nearly two-thirds (63.8%) were educated about spending money responsibly, such as the difference between needs and wants.

Just under half (49.2%) learned about borrowing and how you pay back more than you have initially borrowed. There’s an apparent lack of financial education in schools on the topics of protection. Only 22.8% of Americans learned about this concept in terms of identity theft and having an emergency fund. That’s why global identity theft stats show that the US has the most ID thefts in the world.

(CreditDonkey)

 

14. Financial literacy positively affects people’s credit scores.

Proper education on handling assets can not only result in positive financial literacy trends but in other improvements as well. In 2000, for example, Texas, Idaho, and Georgia introduced mandatory financial education. Within three years, the credit scores of students attending those classes increased significantly. The exact improvements were by 31.71 in Texas, by 16.19 in Idaho, and by 10.89 in Georgia. Only 17 US states require a personal finance course from high school graduates. If more states introduced this, financial literacy among youth would improve significantly.

(National Financial Educators Council)

 

15. Montana is the state with the highest level of financial literacy.

In a 2015 NFCS study, the average number of correct answers of six questions among Americans was 3.16. Montana ranked best compared to all other states with an average of correct answers of 3.78. Vermont (3.66), Wyoming (3.60), Iowa (3.56), and North Dakota (3.54) were other states with sound financial literacy stats.

This is amusing as the latest savings stats place Montana and Wyoming in the top-three states with the lowest retirement savings. Texas, Florida, New York, California, and Louisiana came in at the other end of the spectrum. Their average rate of correct answers was 2.81, 2.89, 2.91, 2.97, and 2.97, respectively.

DC, Mississippi, and Arizona were the states with the highest knowledge in comparison shopping. Their literacy rates on the topic were 46%, 42%, and 40.8%. With respective rates of 65.2%, 64.6$, and 64.3% of consumers who never compare offers, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Ohio ranked last.

(NFCS)

 

16. White Americans have a better knowledge of handling money.

In a 2016 study consisting of six personal finance questions, White Americans scored an average of 3.4 correct answers. Financial literacy trends in the research showed that Asians came in second with an average of 3.2 correct responses. African Americans and Hispanics had significantly lower averages with 2.5 and 2.7 correct answers, respectively.

(US Financial Capability)

 

17. Americans with higher income are more financially literate.

A US Financial Capability research of 2016 tested people from three income groups on six different financial literacy topics. Those earning over $75,000 scored an average of 3.8 correct answers. Americans with income under $25,000 or $25,000-75,000 had averages of 2.5 and 3.1, respectively.

(US Financial Capability)

 

Financial Literacy Statistics Among Millennials

 

18. Millennials need a better understanding of their finances.

The Millennial financial literacy on basic topics like numeracy and mortgages is about 24%. Only 8% of Millennials have significant financial literacy knowledge on asset pricing, inflation, and risk diversification. These figures show that this generation knows the fundamentals but isn’t familiar with the other financial literacy cornerstones.

(PwC)

 

19. Millennials aren’t happy with their knowledge of money issues.

Over one-third of millennials (34%) are unsatisfied, while 18% are not at all satisfied. People from this generation believe they don’t have the tools to change the situations, according to US financial literacy statistics. More than half (54%) worry about student loans and how to repay them. About 34% of millennials have an annual household income of at least $75,000 and worry whether they’ll be able to repay college loans. The average student debt in the US is over $35,000. Meaning, millennials need financial literacy more than any other generation to handle their money smartly and get out of debt.

(PwC)

 

20. College education doesn’t guarantee a better financial future for millennials.

Two-thirds of this age group carry at least one type of long-term debt. The share of educated millennials with at least one kind of long-term balance is much higher at 80%. Approximately 31% of all and 44% of college-educated millennials carry more than one source of long-term debt. These financial literacy college students statistics show that a university degree can help in terms of getting a better job. It can’t, however, substitute financial literacy in America.

(PwC)

 

21. Millennials don’t consult professionals when it comes to personal finance.

Only 12% of this generation decided to consult established financial advisors to help with debt. Less than a third (27%) asked for advice on investments and savings within the past five years. The lack of financial literacy is one of the reasons millennials make bad money decisions. Approximately 14%, for example, made a hardship withdrawal from their savings account. Millennials also use Alternative Financial Services such as payday loans, which are known for having soaring APRs.

(PwC)

 

FAQs

 

What is financial literacy and why is it important?

Financial literacy is having the ability to understand how to make smart money decisions. Financially literate people know how to handle their assets, have healthy saving habits, and invest. All these lead to an improved financial situation and prevent debt generation. That’s the core importance of financial literacy.

Considering that the US is the country with the highest household debt, financial literacy is essential for fighting this negative trend. Those who know how to make smart money decisions are better equipped to grow their wealth.

 

What are the three main components of financial literacy?

Budgeting, saving, and investing. The concept, however, doesn’t stop there. Spending, borrowing, and protecting are also essential aspects of understanding money. Each of these components of financial literacy covers a separate area of handling your assets and boosts your chance of achieving financial success.

 

How many people are considered financially literate?

About one-third of adults worldwide are financially literate. Meaning, about 3.5 billion people understand the basics of handling finances. Most of these people live in developed economies such as the US, the UK, and Germany. The percentage of financial literacy in the USA is only 57% among the adult population of the country.

 

Takeaway

Americans, alongside people from other countries, must work on their financial literacy. Understanding the basic concepts of handling assets has many benefits, including wealth growth and smart investments.

Besides being critical for economic success, financial literacy statistics show that most people lack appropriate knowledge. So, it comes as no surprise that even major economies like the US see soaring levels of household and consumer debts.

 

References: S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey, National Financial Educators Council, Youth.gov, CreditDonkey, National Financial Educators Council, ConsolidatedCredit, NFCS, US Financial Capability, PwC

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