Teaching financial literacy in schools would help young Kiwis stay out of debt in their adult years, a Tauranga financial adviser says.
The comments follow an OECD report that found Kiwi teenagers have above average financial literacy, but students from poorer backgrounds are likely to be less savvy with money than their wealthier peers.
The OECD PISA study measures the capabilities of 15-year-olds in maths, reading and science every three years across 65 countries.
In 2012, New Zealand was one of 18 countries to take part in a financial literacy assessment, which targeted managing money, setting goals and managing risk.
On average, the 957 Kiwi students who participated scored 520 points - above the average score of 500.
Even so, director of Financial Independence in Tauranga Matthew Beattie said financial literacy should be taught in schools.
"It's what we base all our goals on in the future, so we want to have the best chance to achieve it," he said.
"It's too easy to get into debt. The ease of buying stuff and the instant gratification ... the regret comes after that when you've got to pay it off."
A lack of financial education saw people refinancing to keep up with their debt.
"Often the credit card debt is the way they get the debt in the first place, then you go to the bank and get a low interest credit card and stick it all on there."
The report found the relationship between New Zealand students' socio-economic background and financial literacy performance was the strongest among participating countries.
Kiwi teens in the bottom quarter of an index measuring economic, social and cultural status scored 459 points compared to 585 points for those in the top quarter.
Maori students scored on average 466 points and Pasifika students 424.
Massey University's Fin-Ed Centre director Pushpa Wood said we needed to rethink our approach to teaching financial literacy "if we are to break the poverty cycle as the majority of students with only basic skills come from low socio-economic backgrounds".
Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell said: "Financial literacy is an essential life skill and embedding it in the school curriculum makes absolute sense.
"We want young people to leave school equipped to make good decisions about money from an early age."