The 2018 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index: The State of Financial Literacy Among U.S. Adults

April 2018

Financial knowledge has been shown to correlate strongly with financial outcomes. So what’s the state of the nation’s financial literacy?


This report on the second wave of the TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index) provides a comprehensive barometer of U.S. adults’ readiness to make sound financial decisions. The P-Fin Index is unique in its capacity to examine financial literacy across eight common financial activities: earning, consuming, saving, investing, borrowing, insuring, understanding risk and gathering information. The results of the first wave were reported in 2017.

Key Insights
Most Americans lack the knowledge necessary to make routine financial decisions.
Financial literacy tends to be lowest in the area of comprehending risk and highest concerning debt and debt management.
Individuals with greater financial knowledge are more likely to experience positive financial outcomes.
Comprehensive financial literacy across functional areas matters for sound financial outcomes, but no specific area is more important than the others.

This wave of the P-Fin Index survey was fielded online in January 2018 with a nationally representative sample of 1,012 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The sample was drawn from KnowledgePanel, a large-scale probability-based online panel managed by research and analytics firm GfK. To compile the index, the researchers asked 28 core questions, with three or four questions devoted to each of the eight financial topics covered in the survey.