Financial literacy and well-being in a five generation America

Research Report

Are U.S adults at all ages equipped to meet common financial challenges?


With five years of the Gen Z cohort now over age 18, the U.S. adult population spans five generations. Gen Z was quota-sampled when fielding the 2021 P-Fin Index survey which enables comparisons with the other generations, as well as a closer examination within the Gen Z adult population. The P-Fin Index survey also includes indicators of financial wellness along several dimensions, and those too are examined across generations and within Gen Z.

Key Insights

  • Financial literacy tends to be low within each of the five generations, but particularly so among Gen Z. Two-thirds of Gen Z could answer only 50% or less of the index questions correctly.
  • Within Gen Z, financial literacy tends to be lowest among those who have never attended college. On average, this group correctly answered only 39% of the index questions.
  • Across generations, financial literacy tends to be greatest in the areas of borrowing and saving. However, financial literacy in these areas tends to be lower earlier in the lifecycle.
  • Gen Z is the generation most likely to have been offered and to have participated in a financial education class or program.
  • Financial challenges along many dimensions tend to be most common among Gen X, with 28% reporting they have difficulty making ends meet in a typical month.

How well individuals navigate financial decisions throughout their lifetime depends, at least in part, on their financial literacy.


The P-Fin Index survey is fielded online in January each year with a sample of U.S. adults, ages 18 and older. Responses are weighted to be nationally representative. With a sample size of 3,035 respondents and quota sampling for Gen Z, the 2021 survey allowed for comparisons across five generations of Americans.

More than half of Gen Z say COVID-19 motivated them to increase their financial literacy, followed closely by Gen Y and Gen X
Financial literacy and well-being in a five generation America


Andrea Hasler

GFLEC, The George Washington University

Annamaria Lusardi

GFLEC, The George Washington University

Paul Yakoboski

TIAA Institute

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