Assessing the relative need and demand for financial education programs: A case study of graduate students

Research Report

Are individuals with less understanding of personal finance concepts interested in financial education programs?


Recent research has shown that many adults have a poor understanding of basic personal finance concepts, which can have long-term impacts on their financial well-being. However, engaging individuals in improving their financial literacy can be challenging for a variety of reasons. This paper examines the relationship between interest in and need for financial literacy education among graduate students in a large university system.

Key Insights

  • Individuals who estimate they have a high level of financial literacy but perform poorly on a financial literacy quiz are significantly less likely to be interested in financial education.
  • Financially literate students who self-report a low level of financial acumen are significantly more likely to be interested in financial education.
  • While receptivity to financial education programming increases significantly with financial literacy levels, overall engagement in financial education is low, despite purported interest in such programming.

Those most in need of financial education are least likely to take advantage of it.


The authors conducted an online survey measuring self-assessed and actual financial literacy of 2,487 graduate students at a large public university system. They then compared the survey results to respondents’ interest in attending a financial education program.



Brent Davis

TIAA Institute

David P. Richardson

TIAA Institute

Jason Seligman

Investment Company Institute

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