Why can’t Johnny budget?
Perhaps because he’s an American. According to a global financial literacy survey by Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, the U.S. ranks 14th among 144 countries in financial literacy.
A broad segment of Americans are financially illiterate. Just 57 percent of the survey’s U.S. respondents were able to correctly answer five basic financial questions.
The study asked participants about four simple financial concepts: risk diversification, compound interest, inflation and numeracy. To be considered financially literate, participants had to correctly answer at least three of the five questions.
The most financially literate countries were in Scandinavia, where Norway, Denmark and Sweden tied with 71 percent of respondents displaying financial literacy, and in Israel and Canada, where 68 percent were literate.
The U.S. trails most other first-world countries like the U.K. (67 percent) and Germany (66 percent), but enjoys a higher level of financial literacy than Japan (43 percent) and Italy (37 percent).
In the U.S., 40 percent of all adults and just 62 percent of adults who have long-term debt correctly answered questions about compound interest, despite Americans’ high levels of student and credit-card debt.
Americans diverged on financial literacy according to income, education and gender. In the U.S., 62 percent of men are financially literate versus 52 percent of women. Worldwide, the gender gap narrows to five points, 35 percent for men versus 30 percent for women.
Less affluent respondents and respondents with lower levels of education displayed levels of financial literacy significantly lower than their wealthy or better educated counterparts. The survey measured a 28-point gap between Americans with a college education and those without, the highest recorded gap among G-7 countries.
U.S. respondents in the 60th percentile of incomes and above displayed a 64 percent financial literacy rate, while those below the 60th percentile had a 47 percent literacy rate, tying Italy for the second-largest income gap in the G-7 at 17 percent. Only Germany, at 18 percent, had a larger gap in financial literacy between the rich and the poor.