What Malta’s financial literacy looks like

Research study reveals a crucial need for heightened financial literacy and awareness

Financial Literacy in Malta: A Glimpse into the Nation’s Financial Education and Practices is a pivotal research study spearheaded by Marika Fsadni, a market & social research consultant.

This quantitative research survey was completed by 1,005 residents of Malta, with all participants falling within the 18-79 age range. The survey delved deep into the financial literacy levels among adults in Malta, contributing to a broader international effort led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and its International Network on Financial Education (INFE).

This initiative underscores the growing recognition of financial literacy and education’s critical role on the global policy stage, which is why it was held in close collaboration with ĠEMMA, the government entity responsible for promoting financial literacy and capability among Maltese citizens.

Malta has actively participated in the OECD/INFE international surveys on adult financial literacy in both 2018 and 2023. These surveys provide a critical platform for assessing and understanding the financial literacy levels among adults, offering insights into how well individuals manage their financial affairs.

In a presentation held in the presence of Minister for Social Policy and Children’s Rights Michael Falzon, findings from Malta’s 2023 survey on adult financial literacy were presented.

The Journal had a look at the key outcomes and the trends that emerge when comparing the data collected in 2023 with that from the 2018 survey.

Efforts to monitor personal and household finances are increasing 

– Half (48%) of the population in Malta employs banking apps or money management tools to monitor their spending. Yet, this figure drops to 34%-40% among those aged 50 and older. 

– A minority, just 10% (1 in 10), admit to not engaging in any form of monitoring for their personal or household finances. This proportion increases to 15%-18% among individuals aged 60 and above. It’s noteworthy that, back in 2018, a larger fraction, nearly a third (29%) across all age groups, reported not undertaking any such efforts.

The ability to save money

– In the last 12 months, 17% of residents in Malta reported that they were unable to save any money.

– This represents a significant increase of 10 percentage points from 2018, where the figure was only 7%. Notably, the incidence of not saving money was even higher among older demographics, with 19% of those aged 60-69 years and 24% of those aged 70-79 years reporting no savings during this period.

Affording major expenses

– The research revealed that, while two-thirds (67%) of Maltese residents can handle a significant expense equivalent to their monthly income, one-quarter (25%) cannot do so without resorting to borrowing. This issue is even more pronounced among younger individuals, aged 18-39 years, with roughly half (53%) of these age groups indicating they are unable to afford such an expense.

– Promoting the habit of active saving and meticulous financial monitoring could help these individuals bolster their financial resilience. As per findings from the OECD/INFE international survey, maintaining sound saving practices is crucial for enhancing individuals’ capacity to withstand financial uncertainties.

Covering living expenses

– Half of the residents in Malta (49%) have faced moments in the past year where their earnings were insufficient to meet their daily expenses. This was particularly prevalent among households with a net annual income below €36,000.

– This 2023 insight marks a downturn from 2018, when only one-third of residents (33%) encountered periods where their income fell short of covering their living costs over the same timeframe.

Increased confidence in retirement planning

Encouragingly, more residents in Malta now express confidence in their retirement planning efforts. This confidence has surged from 24% in 2018 to 38% in 2023, marking a substantial increase of 14 percentage points.

Additionally, the proportion of individuals admitting to not having a retirement plan has significantly decreased. In 2023, only 12% confessed to lacking a retirement plan, a stark decline from the 45% recorded in 2018.

Despite these positive trends, ongoing financial guidance, education, and support remain crucial to encouraging even more residents to develop robust financial plans for their retirement.

Conclusion

The evidence strongly suggests a crucial need for heightened financial literacy and awareness in Malta. Despite some progress, a significant portion of the population continues to face challenges in managing personal and household finances effectively, and saving for future needs.

The data reveals that, while some strides have been made in improving financial confidence and planning, issues like the inability to save or afford major expenses without borrowing persist, especially among certain age groups and income levels.

The fact that the study was held stands to show that financial literacy and financial education have increasingly become focal points in Malta’s policy agenda. The emphasis on financial literacy reflects a broader understanding of its importance in empowering individuals to make informed financial decisions, manage personal finances responsibly, and navigate the complexities of the modern financial landscape.

Photo: Anna Nekrashevich

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