Millennial Financial Literacy and Fin-tech Use: Who Knows What in the Digital Era

Millennials comprise 35% of the U.S. labor force and by 2019 are expected to surpass Baby Boomers as the nation's largest generation. So their financial capability matters greatly to the U.S. economy.


The Millennial generation's transformative impact arises not only from its sheer size, currently topping 71 million U.S. residents, but also from Millennials' willingness to integrate mobile technology into everyday activities, including banking, purchasing, and comparison shopping. This report, based on the 2018 wave of the TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index), examines Millennials’ financial literacy and the state of their personal finances. The authors address Millennials' financial knowledge relative to the general population, variations among subgroups, and areas of strength and weakness. They also explore this generation’s use of smartphones and other mobile technologies for financial purposes, commonly referred to as "fin-tech."


Key Insights

  • Millennials, on average, answered correctly only 44% of the P-Fin Index questions, compared with 50% among all U.S. adults.
  • Older Millennials answered 47% of questions correctly, faring better than younger Millennials who answered only 41% correctly
  • More than 90% of Millennials own a smartphone, and among this group 80% use their phone to execute financial transactions and 90% to gather financial information.
  • Smartphone usage for making payments and tracking expenses is not linked to better financial management.

Financial literacy among Millennials is lowest in the areas of comprehending risk and insuring.


The findings in this report stem from the 2018 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index, a survey-based assessment of financial knowledge and understanding necessary for effective management of personal finances. The 2018 wave of the survey examines financial literacy across eight common dimensions of personal finance and includes a special set of questions on fin-tech use and its effects among Millennials. The survey was fielded online in January 2018 with a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults ages 18 and older. Millennials were oversampled during survey fielding, with 1,007 participating.


Paul Yakoboski

TIAA Institute

Andrea Hasler

GFLEC, The George Washington University

Annamaria Lusardi

GFLEC, The George Washington University

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