The Most Financially Literate Countries

By Ana Gonzalez Ribeiro | June 22, 2012 AAA
The Most Financially Literate Countries

During the Financial Literacy and Education Summit 2012 in Chicago, the results of the 2012 Global Financial Literacy Barometer were released. The data ranked the financial literacy levels of 28 nations.

According to this report, the nation of Brazil topped the list as having the most financially literate population, followed by Mexico, Australia, United States and Canada. The survey, sponsored by Visa, was conducted between February and April of 2012 with 25,500 participants. It also reported on issues, including the amount of reserves and emergency funds people averaged, whether or not parents speak with their children about financial literacy, and if teenagers and young adults understand money management.

Here are some of the results.

Household Budget
When asked, "Do you follow a household budget?" the top three countries that responded yes to this question were Brazil, Japan and Australia. The U.S. had fewer amounts of people following a budget among the top six countries. It ranked in at 6th place under this category.

People that had a high income and those with a low income had similar numbers when it came to maintaining a budget: 24.8% of those earning under US$20,000 per year and 24.7% of those earning over $75,000 per year said they did not maintain a budget.

Emergency Reserves
More than 70% of survey respondents had less than three months' worth of emergency reserves at hand. This means that in the case of an unexpected financial crisis, such as a job loss, more than half of the people would be cash-strapped. In places like Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan and Serbia, the number is even greater. In these places, only 13 to 14% of the population could endure a personal economic emergency lasting more than three months.

Nearly 60% in some parts of Asia said they could survive a personal economic downturn lasting more than three months, and a third or more could survive a personal economic emergency that lasted six months or more. In the U.S., the average person had 2.9 months of expenses saved. Asian respondents have the best chance of surviving a personal financial struggle. Hong Kong and Taiwan were the top two places where people would survive an economic downturn.

SEE: When Money Is Tight, An Emergency Fund Can Save The Day

Teaching the Kids
Interestingly, 25% of respondents who report they don't have enough funds to cover a personal economic emergency fall are high income earners. Respondents in more than half of the 28 countries surveyed believe that, overall, teenagers and young adults do not understand money management basics, such as budgeting, savings, debt and spending responsibly. In wealthier countries, many parents don't speak as regularly with their children about the financial future. American families talked to their kids about finances 25.8 days out of the year. While in Mexico and Brazil, parents talk to their kids about money often, with Mexicans talking to their kids at least 41.7 days a year and Brazilians 38.1.

The Bottom Line
The takeaway message here is that more Americans have to ramp up their savings in order to prepare for economic downturns. It's not only important for parents to talk to their kids about money, but it's crucial to put some money aside for an emergency. Countries that have a higher personal savings rate are much more economically stable. As far as the world goes, there are several countries ahead of the game in terms of financial literacy, but there are still many others, including the U.S., that still have a long road ahead in money management skills. The only way to get ahead and gain savvy financial skills is to invest in programs that help boost financial literacy classes around the globe.

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