America's teenagers don't particularly excel at financial literacy, but their parents and elders may be no better.
Given that only 17 U.S. states require high schools to provide basic financial education, most American kids either learn from their parents or must educate themselves. Unfortunately, their parents may not be much help, given that fewer than four in 10 American adults are considered to have high financial literacy, according to the National Financial Capability Study.
America's teens have received a middling grade on a recent assessment of financial literacy from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). Its test gauged the financial abilities of 15- and 16-year-olds from 15 countries and economies, including China and Russia, given that teens are on the cusp of entering the workforce or higher education, where they'll need to understand everything from student loans to their pay stubs.
"Financial literacy isn't just about managing a bank account, but it's about how do you manage in an increasingly volatile world," said Andreas Schleicher, the education director of the OECD. "Many of those high school students will go to college and will have to pay back loans. If they don't have those kinds of financial skills, you will be in a difficult situation."
One in five U.S. teens failed to meet the baseline of financial literacy, which means at best they'll be able to make simple decisions on everyday spending or identify financial products, the OECD said.
Only one in 10 American teenagers received the top ranking for financial literacy, which means they can analyze complex financial products and understand the broader financial landscape.
American teenagers scored below their peers in six other countries, including China and Russia, the OECD found. Only one in 10 American teens earned a top ranking for financial literacy, compared with one out of three Chinese teens.
Read on to take four sample questions from the teen financial literacy test, which included both multiple-choice questions and constructed responses.