Study: Most US Teens Can't Read Their Own Pay Stubs

Survey says American teens aren't great at complex or basic financial tasks

By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 10, 2014 9:21 AM CDT | Updated Jul 13, 2014 8:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – There’s nothing wrong with encouraging our nation’s teens to get jobs. But it turns out we’d better make sure we also teach them how to decipher their pay stubs and figure out how much money they lose to Uncle Sam—because most American teens appear to be solidly mediocre in financial matters compared to their peers around the globe, reports MarketWatch. Results of a new survey published yesterday by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that only one in 10 15-year-olds can solve complex financial problems, and one in six can’t even make simple decisions about how to use and spend money. The US came in ninth among the 18 countries surveyed, beating out Colombia, Italy, and Israel, but lost out to China, Belgium, and Estonia.

The survey asked participants questions ranging from how much of a paycheck was actually going into a bank account through direct deposit to the more complicated task of selecting the better of two loan proposals. The report’s authors say that there should be more standardized financial education in schools, but one financial expert disagrees. "What do kids learn? They learn from what they see at home," he tells the Wall Street Journal. His assertion may back up test scores of kids from China, the top performers in the survey. According to the OECD’s head of schools, only 50% of Shanghai students are in schools that offer a financial education program; in the US, that figure is 70%. (Take the test for yourself here.)

Up-close image of pay stub.
Up-close image of pay stub.   (Shutterstock)
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