Survey of Adult Skills: Adults' financial literacy activities

Publication Details

This is part of a series of in-depth reports from the Survey of Adult Skills. This report covers key findings on how often New Zealand adults (aged 16 to 65) participate in financial literacy activities in both everyday life and for work.

Author(s): Paul Satherley, Principal Analyst, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: August 2017


The Survey of Adult Skills measured the skills of New Zealand adults in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology rich environments. It is part of the OECD's Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). Its background questionnaire included questions on frequency of participating in financial literacy activities in both everyday life and work contexts. The activities were:

  • read bills, invoices, bank statements or other financial statements
  • calculate prices, costs or budgets
  • conduct transactions on the internet, for example buying or selling products or services, or banking.

The report uses three frequency categories: at least once a week; less than once a week but at least once a month; and less than once a month.

The Survey of Adult Skills findings about financial literacy activities in everyday life show that being employed, being female, and being moderately highly skilled are all positively and separately associated with frequently doing financial literacy activities. Women are more likely than men to undertake financial literacy activities, even after controlling for age (except young people – 16-24 year olds), family circumstances and employment.

Infrequent participation in everyday financial literacy activities is associated with low skills, particularly in numeracy. Moderately frequent participation is associated with high skills, and frequent participation slightly lower skills. This pattern is strong for numeracy skills in relation to calculating prices and costs.

Women, on average, have lower numeracy skills than men. Moreover, women who calculate prices and costs frequently have very significantly lower numeracy skills than men who do this frequently. People calculating prices, costs and budgets more often also appears to be associated with more limited earnings, but is less likely if they have low education. Undertaking internet transactions is associated with high earnings and high education.

Māori, Pasifika and Asians are more likely to calculate prices and costs in everyday life than New Zealand Europeans. Māori and Pasifika are less likely to conduct internet transactions than New Zealand Europeans and Asians.

Financial literacy activities for work follow different patterns from everyday life. This is expected because only some people's work requires them to read bills and invoices, calculate prices or conduct transactions on the internet, whereas these activities are potentially in scope for anyone's everyday life.

The key factors influencing people's work financial literacy are linked to the work itself either directly or indirectly. For example, managers, clerks and administrators, and people working in financial and insurance services are the most likely to participate in financial literacy activities.

Broadly, people with higher qualifications and higher salaries report more frequent financial literacy activity in their work. The relationship with earnings is stronger than that with qualifications, where people with post-school qualifications at less than degree level participate in financial literacy activity just as often as those with degrees. This is consistent with (a) the finding that employed people with the highest skills, on average, do financial literacy activities with only moderate frequency, and (b) that high skilled and highly qualified occupations (such as professionals and technicians ) are less likely to undertake financial literacy activities frequently than managers or clerical workers.

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