Responsible Finance Forum


Leora Klapper, Annamaria Lusardi and Peter van Oudheusden
Source:  World Bank Development Research Group
 The George Washington University School of Business

Without an understanding of basic financial concepts, people are not well equipped to make decisions related to financial management. People who are financially literate have the ability to make informed financial choices regarding saving, investing, borrowing, and more. Financial knowledge is especially important in times where increasingly complex financial products are easily available to a wide range of the population. For example, with governments in many countries pushing to boost access to financial services, the number of people with bank accounts and access to credit products is rising rapidly. Moreover, changes in the pension landscape transfer decision-making responsibility to participants who previously relied on their employers or governments for their financial security after retirement. Financial ignorance carries significant costs. Consumers who fail to understand the concept of interest compounding spend more on transaction fees, run up bigger debts, and incur higher interest rates on loans (Lusardi and Tufano, 2015; Lusardi and de Bassa Scheresberg, 2013). They also end up borrowing more and saving less money (Stango and Zinman, 2009). Meanwhile, the potential benefits of financial literacy are manifold. People with strong financial skills do a better job planning and saving for retirement (Behrman et al., 2012; Lusardi and Mitchell, 2014). Financially savvy investors are more likely to diversify risk by spreading funds across several ventures (Abreu and Mendes, 2010). Given the many ways financial literacy affects financial behavior (Lusardi and Mitchell, 2014), it is important to understand the extent of people’s understanding of basic financial concepts as well as the degree to which financial skills fall short among groups like women and the poor. The Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services Global Financial Literacy Survey (S&P Global FinLit Survey)   provides this information across a wide array of countries. It builds on early initiatives by the International Network on Financial Education (INFE) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank’s Financial Capability and Household Surveys, the Financial Literacy around the World (FLAT World) project, and numerous national survey initiatives that collect information on financial literacy. The survey complements these efforts by delivering the first and most comprehensive global gauge of financial literacy to date.