American Teens Took a Financial Literacy Test, and The Results Aren’t Pretty

American Teens Took a Financial Literacy Test, and The Results Aren’t Pretty

Remember when you learned the Pythagorean theorem in high school but then didn’t know how to balance a checkbook once you entered the real world? Yeah, me too. Kind of makes you wonder why more states don’t require students to take a finance class.

Well, if you ever needed further proof that personal finance education is needed earlier in life, you can find it in a new study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which just released results from a global financial literacy study it conducted among teenagers from 15 different countries.

About 48,000 15-year-olds took a financial literacy quiz in 2015 administered by the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) — and only 12% of test-takers ended up scoring at the highest level of financial literacy. Meanwhile, 22% lacked the most basic financial skills. Students at this level can’t even recognize the value of a simple budget, Angel Gurría, the secretary-general of the OECD, said in the report.

So how did American teens stack up to the competition? They scored exactly at the OECD average — which isn’t necessarily a good thing, considering the overall findings: 22% of U.S. students were among the low performers, while 10% were among the high performers. Below are how all 15 participating countries ranked in the test results:

1. China
2. Belgium
3. Canada
4. Russia
5. Netherlands
6. Australia
7. United States
8. Poland
9. Italy
10. Spain
11. Lithuania
12. Slovak Republic
13. Chile
14. Peru
15. Brazil

If there’s one piece of good news, it’s that 64% of these students are already earning a paycheck — even though only a third seem to have the skills to manage a bank account.

Now before you start blaming “kids these days” for slacking on their finances, try taking a stab at some of the sample questions from the PISA test. Questions range in difficulty from basic, financial knowledge (like knowing what’s on an invoice) to ones that incorporate a wider range of concepts, like investing. (Hint: You might find it more challenging than you think.)

RELATED: Quiz: What's Your Personal Finance IQ?


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