Financial literacy

Financial literacy is the ability to understand how money works: how you make, manage and spend it.

Financial literacy is important because it equips us with the knowledge and skills we need to manage money effectively.

Poor financial literacy is bad for individuals, their families and the economy. It can cause many people to become victims of predatory lending, make poor financial decisions, resulting in bad credit or having large amounts of debt.

There are many barriers for individuals managing their money and accessing quality financial services. This includes not having the literacy, numeracy and computer skills which underpin everyday financial activities.

Lack of plain English and the regular use of financial jargon by banks is also one of the greatest barriers to understanding financial information.

Since 2000, NALA has been involved in a number of projects to address the issue of financial literacy. They include doing research and advocacy work, developing teaching and learning resources, and providing financial literacy awareness training for financial institutions.

Financial Literacy in Ireland

This report, published in 2022, was commissioned by the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) and completed by TASC (Think Tank for Action on Social Change). The report aims to contribute to the development of more literacy-friendly financial services for adults with financial literacy, numeracy and digital literacy needs.

Find out more about the report
Financial Literacy in Ireland


Our financial literacy research identified that adults with unmet literacy needs would be more excluded financially as banking products became more complex and are delivered online.

The research also showed that low financial literacy is not confined to those who struggle with literacy or numeracy, but exists in all income levels. For example, a third of adults did not know the meaning of the term ‘APR’.

One of the key recommendations of the research was that there needs to be more education and training on the subject area of financial literacy.

This involves the development of the literacy, numeracy and basic computer skills which underpin everyday financial activities.

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Customers and the Central Bank want plain English

Financial jargon is difficult at the best of times to understand but for somebody with unmet literacy needs it is a real barrier to money matters.

Our research in 2009 that showed that the majority of people (89%) would prefer if banks used less financial jargon and more plain English in their communications. The research found that over a fifth of respondents would switch financial institution if they provided their information in a more user-friendly manner.

The Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code (CPC) requires regulated financial services to ensure all information for customers is ‘clear, accurate, up to date and written in plain English’.

Financial literacy
Adult students using computers

Training and advice

We provide training and advice to staff in banks and financial institutions to help to make their services more accessible to people with unmet literacy needs Our service is about making sure that no one with a literacy difficulty is excluded from a service, from promotion or from other important decisions, because of their literacy needs.

The core elements of the service include:

  • Financial literacy awareness training;
  • Plain English editing and training; and
  • Information and referral on workplace basic education.

If you would like further information on our Financial Literacy services please contact NALA on 01 412 7900.

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