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Financial Literacy: Important at Every Age


Alison Salka, Ph.D.
Principal Research Consultant

April 2024

April is recognized as Financial Literacy Month, a time dedicated to promoting awareness and education about financial literacy and empowerment. Throughout the month, various organizations and institutions engage in initiatives aimed at enhancing financial knowledge, skills and decision-making abilities. Today, the ability to understand and manage finances is more important than ever. Financial literacy, the knowledge and skills required to make informed financial decisions, plays a critical role in shaping individuals' financial well-being. Yet, despite its importance, recent LIMRA research reveals a concerning reality: A significant portion of the population lacks adequate financial literacy, with only a fraction demonstrating a high level of proficiency.

According to LIMRA's study, which evaluated consumers' financial literacy using 10 fundamental questions covering essential financial concepts, the average score stood at a mere 4.2 out of 10. This sobering statistic sheds light on the widespread gaps in understanding prevalent among consumers when it comes to managing their money effectively. Alarmingly, more than 1 in 3 consumers performed poorly on the financial literacy quiz, underscoring the urgent need for greater education and awareness in this realm.

Figure 1. Consumer Financial Literacy Scores

Diving deeper into the findings, certain demographic characteristics are associated with higher levels of financial literacy: Men, Baby Boomers, those with higher income levels, married people, parents, those employed or retired, college graduates and white people exhibited higher financial literacy levels. These insights highlight the disparities in financial knowledge across various segments of society and underscore the importance of targeted efforts to bridge these gaps.

Figure 2. Financial Literacy Level

Filter the data in this chart by clicking on a color bar in the chart legend.

Consumer Groups Exhibiting Higher Levels of Financial Literacy*
  • Males
  • Baby Boomers
  • Affluent
  • Married
  • Have children
  • Are working or are retired
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • Are white
  • Live in the West
  • Work with a financial professional
  • Consider oneself knowledgeable about finances
  • Have a sizable rainy day fund
  • Have a monthly household budget
  • Have a long-term financial plan
  • Own more fnancial products
  • Are saving for retirement
  • Have confidence in the financial services industry
  • Have a favorable opinion of the economy
  • Have fewer stressors

*Scored higher than their counterparts in the same consumer grouping. Significant difference at one or more levels and/or mean scores. Base: 971 U.S. consumers

The implications of financial literacy extend beyond mere knowledge acquisition. LIMRA's research reveals a compelling correlation between higher levels of financial literacy and positive financial behaviors (and hopefully outcomes). Individuals with greater financial literacy are more likely to take steps to secure their finances, such as creating a rainy day fund, having a monthly budget, saving for retirement and developing a long-term financial plan. Moreover, they exhibit higher confidence in the financial services industry and report lower levels of financial stress, indicating a greater sense of control and preparedness in navigating financial challenges.

Given the undeniable impact of financial literacy on peoples' financial well-being, it is important to prioritize initiatives aimed at expanding financial education and empowerment. To promote financial literacy and help consumers take charge of their financial futures the industry should consider advocating:

Early and Comprehensive Education: Integrate financial literacy into school curricula at an early age, ensuring that students develop foundational knowledge and skills to make informed financial decisions as they transition into adulthood.

Accessible Resources and Tools: Provide readily accessible resources, such as online courses, workshops and interactive tools, to empower individuals of all ages and backgrounds to enhance their financial literacy at their own pace.

Targeted Outreach and Support: Implement targeted outreach programs tailored to specific demographic groups, including women, minorities, low-income individuals and young adults, to address unique barriers and challenges they may face in improving their financial literacy.

Collaborative Partnerships: Foster collaboration among government agencies, educational institutions, financial institutions, employers and community organizations to leverage resources and expertise in promoting financial literacy initiatives.

Continuous Learning and Engagement: Encourage lifelong learning and ongoing engagement with financial topics through seminars, webinars, community events, and peer support networks to reinforce and expand individuals' financial knowledge and skills.

By investing in these strategies and initiatives, we can empower individuals to make informed financial decisions, build resilience against economic uncertainties and ultimately achieve greater financial security and well-being for themselves and future generations. Together, let us strive to unlock the transformative potential of financial literacy and pave the way toward a more prosperous and equitable society.

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