Comparative Analysis of the Levels of Financial Literacy among Students in the U.S., Belarus, and Japan

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Financial literacy is very important for any society to be successful and competitive in a global community. Financially and economically literate people will make informed decisions as consumers, producers, investors, and citizens. This topic becomes especially urgent in times of economic and financial turmoil and uncertainty. It's a well known fact that lack of financial knowledge and skills have contributed to the latest economic and financial crisis. Many people, young in particular, have limited understanding of such important personal finance topics as budgeting, investment, credit, and spending which leads to making wrong financial decisions and aggravating the crises. These issues are wide spread all over the world, as well as in Belarus, and we find it interesting to conduct research on the status of financial education and the level of personal finance knowledge and skills. In particular, we wish to examine the skill level across countries as compared to Belarus in order to raise awareness of the importance of education on these vital financial issues.

Evidently, effective management of money and finances requires special training. Economic and personal finance education is highly debated in developed countries. There is much research (see Mandell 1998, 2002, 2004; Fetterman and Hansen, 2006; Walstad and Rebeck, 2005; Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Finance, 2008; Orton, 2007 among others) that suggests there is an urgent need for wide-ranging financial training and education of the general public. Numerous educational and business organizations put their forces together to develop personal finance curricula for secondary and college levels and try to disseminate the materials that can help teach young people to be financially literate, to make better decisions about earning income, managing finances, spending and saving, borrowing and investing.

The authors collected baseline information on financial literacy among both high school and college students in Belarus, a country with transitional economy and an underdeveloped financial sector, using existing test instruments and methods and, then, compare those results with results from the U.S. and Japan.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The need for personal finance education has been identified in many countries and is well-documented by current research in the field. For instance, it is widely reported that many young people do not feel prepared for the financial challenges they will face, such as financing their education, buying a car, using credit, saving and investing, or purchasing a home. Recent analysis shows that sixty percent of young people in their 20s "feel they're facing tougher financial pressures than young people did in previous generations. And thirty percent say they worry frequently about their debt" (www.nefe.org). High credit card debt and relatively low savings rates have become a national concern in many developed, as well as developing, countries.

U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy (2009) summarized the results of multiple surveys and tests on financial knowledge and reported consistently low average performance of teenagers. Jump$tart coalition (2008) also reported the lowest scores of 48.3% demonstrated by the 12th graders for over a decade of testing in personal finance.

Even a brief overview of the previously conducted research on the topic demonstrates the evidence of palpable lack of financial competency among the young people in various countries. For example, Larry Orton (2007) provides a thorough overview of the major reasons for increased importance of financial education such as, changing demographics, growing complexity of the financial sector, declining personal savings along with rising indebtedness. International experience drawn on such countries as United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia shows similarities in poor results on recently conducted surveys to evaluate personal finance literacy. …