How does one become "Financially Literate"? Also, on a side question; what does "Financially Literate" even mean?


2 Answers 2


Wikipedia has a nice definition of financial literacy (emphasis below is mine):

[...] refers to an individual's ability to make informed judgments and effective decisions about the use and management of their money. Raising interest in personal finance is now a focus of state-run programs in countries including Australia, Japan, the United States and the UK. [...]

As for how you can become financially literate, here are some suggestions:

  1. Learn about how basic financial products works: bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards, investment accounts, insurance (home, car, life, disability, medical.)

    Free printed & online materials should be available from your existing financial service providers to help you with your existing products. In particular, learn about the fees, interest, or other charges you may incur with these products. Becoming fee-aware is a step towards financial literacy, since financially literate people compare costs. Seek out additional information on each type of product from unbiased sources (i.e. sources not trying to sell you something.)

  2. Get out of debt and stay out of debt. This may take a while. Focus on your highest-interest loans first. Learn the difference between good debt and bad debt. Learn about compound interest. Once you understand compound interest, you'll understand why being in debt is bad for your financial well-being.

  3. If you aren't already saving money for retirement, start now. Investigate whether your employer offers an advantageous matched 401(k) plan (or group RRSP/DC plan for Canadians) or a pension plan. If your employer offers a good plan, sign up. If you get to choose your own investments, keep it simple and favor low-cost balanced index funds until you understand the different types of investments. Read the material provided by the plan sponsor, try online tools provided, and seek out additional information from unbiased sources.

    If your employer doesn't offer an advantageous retirement plan, open an individual retirement account or IRA (or personal RRSP for Canadians.) If your employer does offer a plan, you can set one of these up to save even more. You could start with access to a family of low-cost mutual funds (examples: Vanguard for Americans, or TD eFunds for Canadians) or earn advanced credit by learning about discount brokers and self-directed accounts.

  4. Understand how income taxes and other taxes work. If you have an accountant prepare your taxes, ask questions. If you prepare your taxes yourself, understand what you're doing and don't file blind. Seek help if necessary. There are many good books on how income tax works. Software packages that help you self-file often have online help worth reading – read it.

  5. Learn about life insurance, medical insurance, disability insurance, wills, living wills & powers of attorney, and estate planning. Death and illness can derail your family's finances. Learn how these things can help.

  6. Seek out and read key books on personal finance topics. e.g. Your Money Or Your Life, Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes, The Four Pillars of Investing, The Random Walk Guide to Investing, and many more.

  7. Seek out and read good personal finance blogs. There's a wealth of information available for free on the Internet, but do check facts and assumptions. Here are some suggested blogs for American readers and some suggested blogs for Canadian readers.

  8. Subscribe to a personal finance periodical and read it. Good ones to start with are Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine in the U.S. and MoneySense Magazine in Canada. The business section in your local newspaper may sometimes have personal finance articles worth reading, too.

  9. Shameless plug: Ask more questions on this site. The Personal Finance & Money Stack Exchange is here to help you learn about money & finance, so you can make better financial decisions. We're all here to learn and help others learn about money.

  10. Keep learning!


Financial Literacy is about learning about finance and money and how to use and manage them to give you better outcomes in life. Just like the more books you read and the more writing you do will improve your literacy, the more financial books you read, the more questions you ask and the more you participate in this forum and others like it, the more you will improve your financial literacy.

The more financial literate you are the more you will be able to make informed decisions regarding your finances and the more you will be able to avoid financial scams.

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