House and coins

What is financial literacy?

Financial literacy means the knowledge and skills needed to make important financial decisions. Every day, thousands of people are deciding where to open a bank account, which mortgage to choose, where to invest their money and how to save for retirement.

However, according to the OECD/INFE 2020 international survey of adult financial literacy, about half of the EU adult population does not have a good enough understanding of basic financial concepts. While the overall figures are low, the problem is more acute in some parts of society than others, with the most vulnerable disproportionally affected. Low-income groups, for instance, as well as women, young people and older people, tend to score lower than the rest of the population when it comes to financial knowledge.

Everyone should be able to understand the risks involved when borrowing or investing money. Financial literacy can help individuals plan for the future, make better decisions about what to do with their money, and invest in capital markets in a way that meets their needs. This will be even more important for individuals and businesses as the economy gradually recovers from the COVID crisis.

Financial literacy also protects individuals from over-indebtedness, excessive risk-taking, fraud, or cyber risks. Financial education complements consumer protection, but does not replace it.

What is the European Commission doing about this?

In its September 2020 capital markets union action plan, the Commission reaffirmed that sound financial literacy is at the heart of people’s financial well-being. The Commission and the OECD are working together to develop joint ‘financial competence frameworks’ for young people and adults. These frameworks will set out the knowledge, skills and behaviour that someone needs to develop to ensure their financial well-being throughout their life.

In addition, this webpage gathers various types of resources that can be used by anyone to better understand key financial concepts related to the EU’s financial services policies: videos, visuals, speeches, and more.

Videos and visuals on financial literacy

Do you want to know what a green bond is? Do you want to learn more about your rights when depositing money at the bank or taking out a mortgage? Our videos explain what you need to know in less than 60 seconds! More material will be uploaded in the coming weeks.

Consumer rights and financial literacy

You need to be aware of financial risks and opportunities, to make informed choices and to know where to go for help. If you experience problems with a financial service provider, contact a European Consumer Centre or the consumer organisation in your country.

IBAN discrimination

If your bank account was refused in another EU country, that is illegal. Did it happen to you when you were trying to pay your taxes or bills in another country? You can report it.

Getting a mortgage

If you want to buy a house, you may need a mortgage. This is a loan that generally uses the house as guarantee. Do you know about your rights when getting a mortgage?

Green bonds

Green bonds allow companies or governments to borrow large amounts of money to invest into green projects or technologies.

Crypto-assets

A crypto-asset is a digital representation of value or rights which may be transferred or stored electronically, typically using distributed ledger technology.

Anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism

Money laundering is the process by which criminal proceeds are ‘cleaned’ so that their illicit origin is concealed. The European Commission has put forward an ambitious package of legislative proposals to strengthen the EU’s anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) rules.

Speeches by Commissioner McGuinness

Financial literacy is a political priority for Commissioner Mairead McGuinness. Discover more about her vision of a financially literate EU population and the wider future of financial services in these speeches:

More resources