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Measuring a child’s progress on the building blocks of financial capability

Developing financial capability during youth is an important stepping stone on the path to adult financial well-being. Financially capable individuals have healthy money habits, stick to plans, and apply their knowledge and skills to successfully complete financial tasks. Financial capability is developed over time and is marked by milestones on the path to financial well-being.

The Bureau’s Building Blocks to Help Youth Achieve Financial Capability described where and when children and young adults acquire the foundations of financial capability during childhood.  Now, the Bureau has created the Building Blocks Measurement Guide to provide researchers, program leaders, teachers, and other financial educators with ways to assess young people’s progress toward each building block outlined in the Measurement Guide. 

Download the Building Blocks Measurement Guide.

What are the building blocks of financial capability?

The building blocks of youth financial capability are: 

  • Executive function: Self-control, working memory, problem-solving
  • Financial habits and norms: Healthy money habits, norms, rules of thumb
  • Financial knowledge and decision-making skills: Factual knowledge, research and analysis skills

These building blocks include attributes and abilities that begin to develop in early childhood and continue throughout the teenage years and adolescence.

How can I use the Building Blocks Measurement Guide to evaluate my program? 

The Building Blocks Measurement Guide presents age-appropriate questions that program leaders, researchers, and others can use to evaluate a child’s progress toward each of the three building blocks of youth financial capability. For example, to help measure executive function, a key question posed in the guide is, "Does the child begin to demonstrate self-regulation, persistence, and focus?"

The Measurement Guide presents a list of existing measurement tools along with the associated developmental stage and the building block milestone, which are designed to gather answers to the key questions and allow for assessment. These measurements include examples of surveys, tasks and exercises, interviews, and more. The Measurement Guide explains how to use each measurement and provides background information, sources, and special considerations. 

The measures in the guide were selected from existing research studies and evaluation tools based on their alignment with the milestones and their validity for each developmental stage. The measures represent promising means of assessing progress toward achievement of the milestones in youth. Some of the metrics have been widely used and tested by researchers in the relevant fields, while others are relatively new.

Youth financial educators, program leaders, and researchers can use the tools identified in the Measurement Guide to evaluate the impact of financial education programs or lessons. The data gathered in that process can then be used to track progress over time, to provide evidence of a program’s strengths, and to refine program offerings and curricula. The measures can also be used by researchers to examine how the building blocks developed in childhood connect to and predict adult financial well-being.  

Although most of the measures in this guide have been validated, they have not been independently tested by the Bureau, and the guide does not distinguish what constitutes a "good score" for any of the metrics. The Measurement Guide includes links and references to third-party resources or content that readers may find helpful. 

The Bureau does not control or guarantee the accuracy of this third-party information. By listing these links and references, the Bureau is not endorsing and has not vetted these third parties, the views they express, or the products or services they offer. Other entities and resources also may meet the needs of youth.

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