Financial Literacy in the United States and Its Link to Financial Wellness: The 2019 TIAA Institute-GFLEC P-Fin Index

April 2019

Many Americans lack the personal finance knowledge needed for sound financial decision making.


The 2019 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index) represents the third wave of a long-term project designed to assess U.S. adults’ financial literacy. The P-Fin Index is unique in its capacity to produce a robust measure of overall knowledge of personal finance along with a nuanced analysis of knowledge in eight areas. The 2019 study also explores financial literacy’s link to financial wellness, showing that greater financial literacy is positively associated with the capacity to handle a financial shock, saving for retirement on a regular basis, being unconstrained by debt and other indicators of financial well-being.

To explore sections of the 2019 report on our website, visit this page.

To learn more about all of our P-Fin Index research, visit our P-Fin Index hub page.

Key Insights
On average, U.S. adults answered only 51% of the P-Fin Index questions correctly.
Personal finance knowledge is highest in the area of borrowing and managing debt and lowest in comprehending risk.
The percentage of P-Fin Index questions answered correctly rose from 49% in 2017 to 50% in 2018 to 51% in 2019.
Financial literacy varies across demographic groups based on sex, age, household income, employment status and education.

The TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index is a survey-based assessment of financial knowledge and understanding. The 2019 wave of the survey examines financial literacy across eight common dimensions of personal finance and includes new questions probing the relationship between financial literacy and financial wellness. The survey was fielded online in January 2019 with a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, and was completed by 1,008 individuals.