Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Shanghai Teens Top International Personal Finance Survey

Chinese teens

You'd expect capitalists in the world's top capitalist nation to educate their kids about the ABC's of capitalism. Turns out American capitalists aren't doing that.

The just released "2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)," a respected survey of student proficiency in 65 countries, assessed the financial knowhow among 15-year-olds in 18 countries that joined the survey's financial literacy component.

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It found out that teens in Shanghai had a mean score of 603, the highest among countries that took the financial literacy component. Belgium placed second (541) while the US placed ninth with 492.

On the whole, 43 percent of the Shanghai 15-year-olds were among the best performers in the financial literacy test compared to 9.4 percent of American 15-year-olds. The survey also found that fewer than 30 percent of American teens can understand their paycheck while only one in 10 can solve complex financial tasks.

The disappointing US results are consistent with previous math and reading studies conducted by PISA. Previous tests showed that math and reading skills are closely related to financial literacy.

Experts said Shanghai's placing first doesn't necessarily mean Chinese teens are more financially savvy than their Western counterparts. They said Shanghai's strong showing means Shanghai students are just better at math than their peers.

They pointed out that strong financial literacy scores are mostly highly correlated with students demonstrating problem-solving skills and perseverance. Experts said the best approach to teach teens personal financial concepts is to focus on math while offering teens exposure to real world financial decisions.

Teens should also be taught to have the nerve to ask questions and to not give up quickly in any endeavor.

The goal of PISA was to figure out how to increase the financial IQ of people worldwide by teaching financial skills early and teaching about savings and investing, among other necessary financial skills.

In the past, PISA focused on math, science and reading. In 2012 for the first time, it added testing on personal financial concepts.

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