OECD: Estonians continue to be poor savers

OECD logo (picture is illustrative).
OECD logo (picture is illustrative). Source: AFP/Scanpix

While the knowledge of Estonian residents about money matters is relatively good, it is not carried over to financial behavior, whereas particular attention should be paid to saving, it appears from the International Survey of Adult Financial Literacy conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In total 125,787 respondents of ages 18 and above from 26 countries and economies, drawn from Asia, Europe, and Latin America, participated in the second international survey of financial literacy competencies using the OECD/INFE (International Network on Financial Education) toolkit that looks at the respondents' elements of knowledge, behavior, and attitudes, the Ministry of the Finance (Rahandusministeerium) said.

Individuals across the entire sample on average scored only 12.7 or just under 61 percent of the maximum financial literacy score, which represents a basic set of knowledge concepts and financially prudent behaviors and attitudes. The average across participating OECD member countries is only marginally higher at 13.0, representing 62 percent of the maximum. The highest score achieved by any country or economy was 14.8 by Hong Kong, China, or 71 percent of the maximum, and a minimum of 11.1 was scored by Italy, 53 percent of the maximum. The majority of economies, numbering 15, scored between 12 and 14.

Next, after Hong Kong came Slovenia, Austria, and Germany. The average for Estonia was 64 percent of the maximum, which put the country in a shared fifth place with Indonesia. The countries next on the list were Portugal, Poland, Korea, and Czechia.

The scores for Estonia differed in the three categories examined. In knowledge, Estonia ranked fourth after Hong Kong, Austria, and Germany. However, the Estonian score, 65.6 percent of the maximum, was lower than the score registered in the previous such survey in 2016 and shows that some 35 percent of the population are lacking the basic knowledge of how to best manage their finances. 

In behavior, meaning long-term planning and saving, as well as keeping control over money, the scores of all countries were weaker. In that, Estonia placed in the middle of the scoreboard in place 13 among the 26 countries and economies with 58.7 percent of the maximum. 

In 2016, Estonia occupied 24th place in a comparison of 30 countries, scoring less than 40 percent of the maximum. 

Estonia took seventh place in attitudes, scoring better than the average for the countries taking part in the survey as well as OECD member states. Its score, 61.8 percent of the maximum, demonstrated significant progress over the 2016 score of 52 percent. 

"We stood out with a very high score for the timely payment of bills. At the same time, we were in the fourth position from the bottom for active saving, scoring lower than both the average for the survey as well as the average for OECD member states," Liisi Kirch, coordinator for financial wisdom at the Ministry of Finance, said. 

Nor was Estonia's score outstanding in long-term planning, meaning the existence of savings for a longer period, by which indicator Estonia placed ninth. 

"Or in other words, Estonians are very prudent when it comes to the payment of bills, but not when it comes to putting aside money for emergencies," Kirch said.

"Even though the score reflecting attitudes and behavior shows progress compared with previous international results, it has to be remembered that the maximum score of the survey only refers to knowledge of basic truths, and one-third of respondents in Estonia didn't reach that," the coordinator added.


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Editor: Katriin Eikin Sein

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