10 Jul 2014

Most NZ teens financially literate

7:28 am on 10 July 2014

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has awarded New Zealand a glowing report card when it comes to financial literacy, with teenagers on average scoring well above the OECD average.

But it also revealed a huge disparity between the highest and lowest performing students, clearly linked to how rich or poor their parents are.

The organisation tested 957 15-year-olds around New Zealand on topics such as budgeting, taxation, inflation and bank transactions.

Young New Zealanders are ranked as financially literate.

Young New Zealanders are ranked as financially literate. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Overall, New Zealand ranked fifth out of the 18 countries surveyed, very slightly behind Australia.

However, the report highlights a wide gap between the highest and lowest performing teenagers.

Almost one in five students demonstrated advanced skills and knowledge - twice the OECD average.

But at the other end, 16 percent had very poor skills when it came to managing money.

The OECD draws a strong connection between students' performance and their socio-economic status. The higher their status, the higher their performance.

The report also points out that Maori and Pasifika students score much lower than average.

Director of Massey University's financial education centre Pushpa Wood said that was deeply concerning.

"We ... have a large proportion of students with only basic skills in managing their money.

"We can no longer ignore this disparity and must find a way to unlock their untapped potential so they can fully participate in the economic world."

Dr Wood said schools need to consider very targeted financial literacy programmes if they're to break the poverty cycle.

Post Primary Teachers' Association president Angela Roberts said the findings show the influence of a student's home life.

"So kids who've got bank accounts, kids who hear a conversation around the dinner table around interest rates and exchange rates and mortgages and things like that are much more likely to have an understanding of financial literacy issues."

The report found about 90 percent of students had a bank account, and performed starkly better than those without.