The 2017 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index: A New Measure of Financial Literacy

March 2017
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How well individuals navigate life’s financial decisions is dependent, at least in part, on their knowledge and understanding of personal finance. The Personal Finance Index offers unique insights concerning Americans’ capacity for sound financial management and decisionmaking.


The Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index) is a survey-based assessment tool that produces a robust measure of overall knowledge of personal finance while enabling refined analysis across eight functional areas. The survey also collects information about household finances and financial behaviors, providing insights into the relationship between knowledge and outcomes. P-Fin Index results are available for the U.S. adult population as well as demographic subgroups defined by age, gender, race and ethnicity, education level, employment status, household income and exposure to financial education.

Key Insights
U.S. adults are split 50/50 between those who could and could not answer one-half of the P-Fin Index questions correctly.
Sixteen percent of U.S. adults demonstrated a relatively high level of personal finance knowledge and 20% a relatively low level.
Thirty percent of adults under age 45 have a relatively low level of financial literacy and only 10% a relatively high level. Young adults’ financial knowledge is lowest in areas concerning risk and insurance.

Developed by the TIAA Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) at The George Washington University, the P-Fin Index is based on responses to 28 core questions, with three or four questions devoted to each of the following topics: earning, consuming, saving, investing, borrowing and managing debt, insuring, comprehending risk and go-to information sources. The first wave of the survey was fielded online in September 2016 with a nationally representative sample of 1,043 U.S. adults age 18 or older.