Financial Education Statistics

Statistics about the current state of financial education shine light on many important issues having to do with the lack of monetary literacy we face as a nation. They also point out the dramatic consequences of inaction, highlight the best solutions to the problem and show us a clear path forward. These solutions lie in changing our views of talking about money. Financial education statistics show that by being more open about finances, parents, educators and those involved in public policy can have a positive impact on individuals who would otherwise never be exposed to the idea of taking responsibility for their personal finances.

Financial Education Problems and Solutions

Financial education statistics highlight the severe lack of financial knowledge and subsequent discontent that afflicts millions of individuals who were not able to receive a basic education in financial literacy. The same statistics that indicate a dire need for improved financial education also attest to the efficacy of well-crafted financial literacy initiatives based on data and industry wide best practices. Recent financial education statistics clearly demonstrate that efforts to educate individuals, both young and old, in financial literacy result in improved financial behavior.

Management of Financial Education Statistics Considerations

Financial Behavior is Copied from Peers and Learned Through Education

In a survey by OECD, well over a quarter of respondents replied that their culture influenced their attitudes toward wealth (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Parents who have three or more types of savings are more likely to have kids who discuss money with them (83% vs. 66%) and less likely to have kids who spend money as soon as they get it (40% vs. 52%) or lie about their spending (34% vs. 43%) (Money Confident Kids).

A survey of 15-year-olds in the United States found that 18 percent of respondents did not learn fundamental financial skills that are often applied in everyday situations, such as building a simple budget, comparison shopping, and understanding an invoice (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).

Financial Education Occurs at School and at Home

Less than one in ten (7%) understand that small company stock funds have a higher return over time than large company stock funds, dividend paying stock funds, or high yield bond funds (The American College).

Vermont, which ranked 2nd out of all 50 states on a financial literacy assessment, had the lowest rate of non-bank borrowing methods, at 15.2% (US Financial Capability).

46% of Americans say they have set aside 3 months-worth of living expenses in the case of an emergency (US Financial Capability).

Households that scored higher on a specially constructed savings index were found to be more likely to own a checking account and have an emergency fund (Federal Reserve).

Decisive Financial Education Statistics Infographic

Mechanisms for Financial Education Statistics Competencies

Financial Literacy Education Improves Financial Planning

Low-income workers attending an employer-sponsored financial education program were 11.5% more likely to participate in 401(k) plans and save more for retirement than peers who elected not to attend the education initiative (National Bureau of Economic Research).

Researchers take advantage of a survey recording self-reported savings rates, as measured by amount of unspent take-home pay along with voluntary deferrals (e.g. 401(k) plan), and the state the respondent went to high school in. This is used to determine whether state mandated financial education curricula have an impact on the amount individuals save. Those entering high school five years after the implementation of the mandate had a savings rate of 1.5 percentage points higher than for students not exposed to a mandate (National Bureau of Economic Research).

The Citi foundation proposes that programs should revolve around actual financial products that participants can then implement to make smarter financial choices. Information gleaned from research, pilot programs, and other evaluations should be shared other stakeholders in the field so as to maximize efficiency (Citigroup).

The Jump$tart Coalition prescribes that materials are specifically tailored toward the intended target group. Lesson plans are kept up to date and regularly revised to be accurate and relevant (Jumpstart).


Financial education statistics, while often discouraging, should not dissuade educators from creating well designed financial literacy programs. Rather, current financial education statistics should serve as a reminder to the pervasiveness of the financial illiteracy epidemic and compel both public and private organizations to bolster their financial education efforts. Through coordinated efforts and by utilizing sustainable program best practices, initiatives have the ability to transform financial behavior and improve the financial education statistics years from now.

Any program aimed at teaching people how better to handle their personal finances should include up-to-date curriculum, relevant materials with practical application, and instructors who have been carefully trained to be effective and engaging. But there’s another critical component: empirical research. According to the National Financial Educators Council (NFEC), collecting financial literacy statistics prior to designing an educational program must not be overlooked.

All NFEC campaigns and resources are based on the latest evidence and empirically-tested learning theory. The organization has adopted a holistic approach to promoting financial literacy; that is, they have fully imagined the entire process of planning and staging an event – from beginning to end. For example, if you seek to reach young people with money management knowledge, you should start by gathering youth financial literacy statistics using validated research methods.

Interested individuals and groups may turn to the NFEC website ( for findings from the organization’s recently conducted research studies. One such study was an online assessment of current financial knowledge among American teens. A total 1,309 students aged 15-18 completed a web-based questionnaire that measured their knowledge in several important financial literacy areas. The survey took place from January 2012 to August 2013. Youth scores on the test were less than optimal – fewer than 30% of respondents achieved scores of 70% or higher, and the average score was only 58%.

The clear need to teach today’s young people better skills for managing their personal finances is backed up by findings from a second NFEC study, also conducted in 2012-13. This study surveyed 452 U.S. adults regarding their opinions about financial wellness research. An important example of the results was a question asking the magnitude of the problem that few students fully understand the consequences of taking on student loan debt. More than 93% of adults reported thinking this situation was either a “very big” or a “big” problem.

Accurate measurement is an essential piece to consider when planning any activity designed to build financial capabilities. Part of the planning process should include consultation with the NFEC to obtain the latest financial illiteracy statistics. Such information will guide the development of effective programs and instruction.