Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers


Does financial education in high school affect retirement savings in adulthood?

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Working Paper

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Since individuals are increasingly required to manage their own retirement portfolios, policy levers that increase retirement planning and saving have become increasingly important. We use variation in timing and presence of state-required personal finance coursework in high schools to estimate the effect of the financial education coursework on the likelihood of holding and amount in retirement accounts in adulthood (ages 25–40). Our results show no definitive increases in account ownership, non-retirement investment accounts, or homeownership. Since prior work finds required high school financial education improves credit and debt outcomes, we recommend that states and educators prioritize content that is more immediately relevant for 18-year-olds, such as budgeting, long-term debt, and credit.


financial education, financial literacy, retirement savings, high school financial education

Working Paper Number



The project described received funding from the TIAA Institute and Wharton School’s Pension Research Council/Boettner Center.

Copyright/Permission Statement

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent official views of the TIAA Institute or Wharton School’s Pension Research Council/Boettner Center.


The authors thank Kyle Musser and Kelsey Gordon for excellent research assistance.



Date Posted: 14 February 2022