New Zealand teenagers are above average when it comes to financial literacy, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found.

But it also found the link between whether the child came from a rich or poor background and their level of financial literacy was the strongest in New Zealand.

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 in which 957 Kiwi students sat tests.


The study targeted three areas; managing money, setting goals and managing risk.
On average New Zealand students scored 520 points - above the average score of 500 for the OECD countries taking part.

New Zealand also had a large proportion of students (19 per cent ) with advanced skills and knowledge compared to the OECD average of 10 per cent.

Example of financial literacy question:

Each month Jane's salary is paid into her bank account. This is Jane's pay slip for July.

Position: Manager 1 July to 31 July
Gross salary $2,800
Deductions $300
Net salary $2,500
Gross salary to date this year $19,600

PAY SLIP: Question 1
How much money did Jane's employer pay into her bank account on 31 July?

ANSWER: $2500

But it found the relationship between student socio-economic background and financial literacy performance in New Zealand was the strongest of all the countries which took part.


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 points - well below the New Zealand average.

Students with an immigrant background also had lower scores as did those who spoke a language other than English at home.

Pushpa Wood, director of Massey University's Fin-Ed Centre said it was "deeply concerning" that socio-economic status seemed to be the determining factor behind the performance of New Zealand students.

"In light of these results we may need to look at our approach to delivering financial literacy.

"We must encourage some innovative, targeted programmes and delivery methods 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 the study gave some clear insights into where New Zealand needed to concentrate its efforts.

"Broadly New Zealand is tracking well on financial literacy levels for the fifteen-year-olds tested by PISA, with competencies above many of our OECD counterparts.

"However, it identifies that Maori and Pacific are over-represented in the group with the lowest levels of financial literacy.

"It also highlights a difference between boys and girls in understanding financial fundamentals."

While no gender differences were found in the average score a greater number of boys had advanced financial literacy than girls and more boys showed basic skills than girls.

Maxwell said the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income had been working on initiatives to support the teaching of financial literacy within the curriculum including a pilot programme involving seven schools and Massey University.

"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," Maxwell said.

Teenage financial literacy top performers
Country average score
1. Shanghai-China 603
2. Belgium 541
3. Estonia 529
4. Australia 526
5. New Zealand 520
6. Czech Republic 513
7. Poland 510
8. Latvia 501
9. US 492
10. Russia 486

Average score across 13 OECD countries 500