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We were curious about what people know about personal finance, including how they learned about managing their money. So we asked.

These are some of the things we learned from the 2,516 Americans we polled when we asked them about the following: 

How knowledgeable they felt about personal finance . . .

— 44% said they’re knowledgeable about personal finance.
— 17% said they’re extremely knowledgeable about personal finance.
— 4% said they’re not knowledgeable about personal finance.

When they started to understand their finances . . .

— 10% said they first started to understand their finances as a child.
— 36% told us they first started to understand their finances in high school.
— 29% said they first started to understand their finances once they started working.
— 9% told us they first started to understand their finances in university or grad school.

If they were ever taught personal finance in school . . .

— 42% said they were not taught about personal finance in school. 
— 40% said they were taught about personal finance in high school. 
— 11% said they were taught about personal finance in college.

When they had their first “money memory?” 

— 51% said they had their first “money memory” as a child. 
— 27% said they had their first “money memory” in high school. 

If they wished schools taught personal finance in school . . .

— 87% of the people who said they weren’t taught about personal finance in school said they wish they had been. 

At what age they think people should start learning about personal finance . . .

— 95% said people should start learning about personal finance before graduating high school. 
    - 32% said people should start learning about personal finance in elementary school.
    - 35% said people should start learning about personal finance in middle school.
    - 28% said people should start learning about personal finance in high school.

Where it’s important to learn about personal finance . . . 

— 63% said it’s important to learn about personal finance at home.
— 62% said it’s important to learn about personal finance in school. 
— 18% said it’s important to learn about finance at work.

Who taught them the most about personal finance . . . 

— 26% said they taught themselves the most about personal finance. 
— 46% said they were taught the most about personal finance by one of their parents.
    - 26% said they were taught the most about personal finance by their mother.
    - 20% said they were taught the most by their father. 
— 8% said they were taught the most about personal finance by their teachers.
 

Which of the following they wish they’d learned about earlier in school . . .

— 58% said they wished they had learned about personal finance earlier in school, compared to a foreign language (21%), playing a musical instrument (10%), algebra (6%), biology (3%), and trigonometry (3%).

Savings accounts – the who, what and how:

When we asked about savings accounts . . . 

— 75% said they do have a savings account. 
— 30% of the people who said they have a savings account said they have more than one. 
— 26% said they opened their first savings account once they started working.
— 53% said they opened their first savings account before graduating high school or attending college. 

How they learned about the bank or financial institution where their savings account is located . . .

— 58% of the people who said they have a savings account said they learned about the bank or financial institution where they have their account from friends or family. 

Why they chose that bank or financial institution for your savings account . . .

— 29% of the people with savings accounts told us they choose their bank or financial institution’s savings account for low to no fees, followed by easy account opening process (28%), because it was a bank that they already did business with (28%) and customer service (24%).

If they wished they’d opened a savings account earlier . . . 

— 60% said they wished they had opened a savings account earlier. 

How often they contribute to their savings account . . . 

— Nearly half of the people who said they have a savings account (49%) said they contribute to it every month. 
— 24% of the people who told us they have a savings account said they contribute to it every week.

Saving and other goals:

When we asked for each of the following pairs of items, which would make people happier

— 67% said they would be happier adding $1,000 to their savings than losing 10 pounds (33%).
— 86% said they would be happier adding $1,000 to their savings than getting an extra day of vacation (14%). 
— 91% said they would be happier adding $1,000 to their savings than eating at a fine dining restaurant. 
— 88% said they would be happier adding $1,000 to their savings than reading 10 books. More than a third (35%) said they would be happier to treat their pet to something than treat themselves to something. 
— 58% said they would rather eat at their favorite restaurant vs buying a new outfit.  
— 72% said they would rather eat at their favorite restaurant vs going to the gym.  
— 51% said they would rather take an extra day of vacation vs buying a new electronic.  

Survey Methodology:
The Financial Literacy 2020 Survey was conducted by Marcus by Goldman Sachs® in March 2020 among 2,516 Americans. Savings accounts defined as savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs) and money market accounts.