The 2020 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index: Many Do Not Know What They Do and Do Not Know

The 2020 TIAA Institute GLEC Personal Finance Index

Americans’ financial literacy, while remaining low overall, has improved slightly in recent years.


The 2020 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index), part of a long-term study to gauge U.S. adults’ financial literacy, is unique in its capacity to produce a robust measure of overall personal finance knowledge plus a nuanced analysis of financial literacy across eight functional areas. The 2020 wave of the study contains several new questions. For example, individuals were asked to evaluate their financial knowledge and estimate the amount of time they spend dealing with personal financial issues while at work.

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To learn more about all of our P-Fin Index research, visit our P-Fin Index hub pageOpens in new window.

Key Insights

  • U.S. adults, on average, correctly answered 52% of the P-Fin Index questions.
  • Correct responses have risen by 1 percentage point each year since the inaugural survey in 2017, resulting in a statistically significant increase over this period.
  • Financial knowledge is lowest in the area of comprehending risk and highest in borrowing and debt management.
  • Individuals with greater financial literacy spend less time at work contemplating money management problems.
  • Financial literacy is notably lower among Gen Z compared with older generations.

People’s perceptions of where their financial knowledge is weakest and strongest often conflict with reality.


A nationally representative sample of 1,008 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, completed the 2020 P-Fin Index survey online in January 2020. A sufficient number of Gen Z and Gen Y respondents were sampled to allow for comparisons of financial literacy across generations as well as within age groups.

U.S. adults answered 52% of P-Fin index questions correctly, on average


Paul Yakoboski

TIAA Institute

Annamaria Lusardi

GFLEC, The George Washington University

Andrea Hasler

GFLEC, The George Washington University

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