financial literacy, financial behavior, numeracy, young


This paper uses data from the 2009 National Financial Capability Study to examine financial literacy and financial behavior in a sample of approximately 4,500 young adults age 25 to 34. The paper finds that most young adults lack basic financial knowledge. Financial literacy is especially low among certain demographic groups, such as women, minorities, and lower-income or less-educated people. A high level of education, however, is not a guarantee of financial literacy. Only 49% of young respondents with a college education and 60% of young respondents with postgraduate education could correctly answer three simple questions designed to assess financial literacy. Results show that respondents who display higher financial literacy or higher confidence in their math or personal finance knowledge have better financial outcomes: they are less likely to use high-cost borrowing methods, and they are more likely to plan for retirement or have set aside savings for emergencies.



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