Financial Literacy: Learning Beyond the Curriculum – Lessons for Life

“I’m almost 18 and don’t know anything about taxes or rent or insurance. But I can write a poem analysis. In four languages.” (Student from Cologne, 17 years)

Perhaps you know this quote from a 17-year-old schoolgirl from Cologne, or maybe you have a similar experience? What the student describes can be summarised in a broader sense under the term “financial literacy” and includes knowledge about planning and managing one’s finances, investments and loans as well as knowledge about economically relevant concepts such as compound interest calculation or risk diversification. The level of understanding of financial literacy varies considerably across population groups and countries (see Lusardi and Mitchell, 2011b; Atkinson and Messy, 2012; Klapper et al. 2015; OECD/INFE 2016).

Already 2000 years ago, the Roman writer and philosopher Lucius Seneca- with the statement “it is not for school but for life that we learn” – criticised the schools of his time. Although, of course, a lot has changed in the education system over the years. But even today the curricula in Germany hardly include any subjects that deal with the topics of everyday adult life (e.g. organising private finances, preparing tax returns, concluding contracts and individual insurance policies, retirement provisions).

In recent years, new media and technologies have strongly influenced the educational and knowledge transfer landscape. Thanks to the Internet, we now have access to a wide variety of content outside the curriculum or lecture hall at relatively low cost and in relatively little time. For us, this means filtering out precisely the right option from a range of countless products, advertisements, websites, experience reports, ratings and forums. Triggered by the global financial and economic crisis, more and more institutions such as banks and commercial service providers are now also becoming involved in the field of financial education. Since it cannot be ruled out that information materials from such institutions sometimes serve their interests, it is not clear to what extent these materials can be trusted (Fuhrmann 2013).

There are many areas with which (young) adults are confronted again and again in the course of their lives. To promote lifelong learning in addition to learning for school, these “lessons for life” should also be addressed as early as possible.

How can financial literacy be promoted at an early stage to give young people a successful start to adult life in this respect as well? What could be a sustainable proposal to teach this content and perhaps also offer adults an opportunity to learn more about finance, insurance and the like?

Atkinson, Adele and Flore-Anne Messy (2012). Measuring Financial Literacy: Results of the OECD/International Network on Financial Education (INFE) Pilot Study. OECD Working Papers on Finance, Insurance and Private Pensions 15. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Driva, A., Lührmann, M., Winter, J. (2016). “Gender differences and stereotypes in financial literacy: Off to an early start.” Economics Letters, 146, 143–146.

Fuhrmann, B. (2013). “Don’t know much about economics and business” Economic und financial literacy als wesentliche, jedoch vernachlässigte Bildungsziele. WissenPlus (4): I-VIII.

Klapper, Leora, Annamaria Lusardi, and Peter van Oudheusden (2015). Financial Literacy Around the World: Insights from the Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services Global Financial Literacy Survey. Retrieved from (2019, October 6).

Lusardi, A., & Mitchell, O. S. (2011a). The outlook for financial literacy. In O. S. Mitchell & A. Lusardi (Eds.), Financial literacy: implications for retirement security and the financial marketplace (pp. 1–15). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lusardi, A., & Mitchell, O. S. (2011b). Financial literacy around the world: an overview. Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, 10(4), 497–508.

Lührmann, M., Serra-Garcia, M., Winter, J. (2015). “Teaching teenagers in finance: Does it work?” Journal of Banking & Finance, 54, 160–174.

Lührmann, M., Serra-Garcia, M., Winter, J. (2018). “The impact of financial education on adolescents’ intertemporal choices.” American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 10(3), 309–332.

OECD/INFE (2016). OECD/INFE International Survey of Adult Financial Literacy Competencies. Retrieved from (2019, October 6)

OECD/INFE (2015a). 2015 OECD/INFE Toolkit for measuring financial literacy and financial inclusion. Retrieved from (2019, October 6).

With support of

Scientific Partner:

Supporting researchers:

Carla Rhode
Sarah Reiter
Tanja Stitteneder
Markus Zimmer