Updated: Aug 31, 2021

Study: Who Taught You the Most About Money?

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Money lessons can come in different forms and they can have a life-long impact -- positively or negatively.

For example, those who see irresponsible use of credit cards may replicate that behavior. Or, they avoid credit cards completely after seeing how debt can ruin family finances.

So, a good influence -- whether from parents, teachers, or mentors -- is important to teach sound financial habits.

A MyBankTracker survey found that parents had the biggest influence (36.7 percent of respondents) on consumers’ financial savviness. And, the main lesson (21.7 percent of respondents) was “how to save more.”

While saving more is good advice, this kind of general lesson may point to one of the shortcomings of how financial literacy is taught.

Expert Advice
Dr. Peter Kindle, PhD, CPA
Dr. Peter Kindle, PhD, CPA
Professor of Social Work, University of South Dakota

Financial education programs simply do not produce changes in financial behaviors unless the education is relevant to a specific consumption issue like home buying or auto purchases.

Fortunately, some more specific financial topics were cited by survey respondents as lessons learned, though lower down the list than the general advice to save more money.

Here are the notable highlights from the survey:


  • 36.7 percent of respondents said that a parent or guardian taught them the most about money, followed by 26.1 percent who said they taught themselves
  • Nearly 24.2 percent said no one taught them about money
    21.7 percent said the biggest lessons learned was how to save more followed by 15.7 percent who noted that they learned how to manage credit and debt and 14.8 percent who learned to spend smarter
  • A higher percentage of women than men learned most about savings, debt, and smarter spending while a higher percentage of men took away more about investing, business, and career planning.

1. Who taught you the most about money?

Response All Men Women
Parent/guardian 36.7% 33.6% 39.6%
I taught myself 26.1% 26% 26.2%
No one 24.2% 26.6% 22.0%
Teacher/professor 4.9% 5.9% 4.0%
Spouse or significant other 3.6% 2.5% 4.7%
Friend 2.6% 3.3% 2.0%
Financial pro 1.8% 2.1% 1.5%

2. What did this person teach you most about money?

Response All Men Women
Saving more 21.7% 17.3% 26.1%
Credit & debt 15.7% 16.1% 17.0%
Spending smarter 14.8% 14.4% 16.5%
Investing 13.5% 13.2% 10.9%
Business advice 2.9% 4.3% 1.5%
Career advice 2.1% 2.9% 1.4%
Other 29.2% 31.7% 26.7%

How to Keep Your Finances in Check

The need for financial literacy education is clear from the amount of trouble people are having with their personal finances. According to Dr. Kindle, "A quarter of adults do not have the resources to cope with a $400 emergency."

Teaching financial literacy is made tougher by the fact that different people have different needs, depending on their situation.

Those needs vary more than ever due to a combination of old problems like poverty and poor education, and new ones like changes in banking and the nature of work.

"On the one hand, we have the mainstream economy with traditional banking and financial services, legitimate labor markets, etc. On the other hand, we have a fringe economy with alternative financial services and underground labor markets," says Dr. Kindle.

For some people, the right knowledge can help them take control of their financial decisions. Others might need professional advice.

Track Your Money

The very first step to changing your financial strategy is to obtain a clear picture of your current money situation.

By understanding where your money is coming from and where it is going, you can identify areas for improvement.

Nowadays, there are many personal financial management tools available -- many of which are free -- to set up a one-stop location to see everything from your bank accounts to your retirement funds.

Have an Advisor Take a Look

A financial advisor may be able to review your finances and develop a personalized plan for how to manage your money.

We often mention fee-only financial planners because they won’t be biased when recommending financial products and services (for instance, they may get paid to sell an unnecessary insurance policy to you).


The study was conducted through Google Surveys on behalf of MyBankTracker from March 31, 2021 to April 7, 2021 with 934 respondents in the United States of ages 18 and up who switched jobs, quit their job, or refused to go back to work with a standard deviation of 6.0%.