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Assessing Financial Capability And Well Being In Ireland

Evidence type: Insight i


The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission commissioned the study to determine levels of financial capability and financial well-being in Ireland now and in the future in order to provide updated evidence that would help inform its work on financial education. An earlier survey that had been developed and undertaken in 2008 in Norway was adapted for this study.

The study

The report is based on a nationally representative survey in 2018 of 1,401 people aged between 18 and 80 in Ireland. The questionnaire was based on the Norwegian SIFO model (see Kempson, Finney and Poppe, 2017), with additional questions relating to retirement provision. The model distinguishes between financial behaviours and financial well-being. Its use enables comparison with other national surveys, using scores between 0 and 100 across a range of measures. The design also enables some comparison with 2008 results. The study aimed to assess current levels and determinants of well-being and to draw out implications for policy and practice.

Key findings

  • The average Irish score for general financial well-being (on a scale of 0 to 100) was 64, compared with 77 for Norway and 59 for Australia and New Zealand.
  • The average score for meeting current commitments was 80, 61 for being financially comfortable, 52 for longer-term resilience and 46 for resilient retirement provision for those yet to retire.
  • 25% of the population was “financially secure” (average score 87), 52% “doing fine now, but with little put by” (66), 16% “just about coping” (41), and 7% “struggling” (20). Reduced scores related notably to lower short- and long-term resilience and retirement provision.
  • Financial well-being of individuals is related to overall current income and educational background, as well as how they use and manage money. This suggests that effective policy requires attention to income security and inequality on the one hand and promoting financially capable behaviours on the other.
  • Active saving and not borrowing to meet daily expenses are the most influential drivers of well-being. Spending restraint and taking responsibility for financial actions and outcomes had a wide range of direct and indirect effects.
  • While the Irish population compares well internationally in core behaviours that drive financial well-being, spending restraint is much lower. Addressing this will require improving attitudes to saving, spending borrowing, as well as various personality traits. The study argues that such traits and attitudes are more influential than knowledge and experience.
  • It concludes by arguing that a national strategy would be useful and that there are two particularly important areas for attention: education for children and young people at home and school (including such areas as discussing money and developing impulse control) and introducing auto-enrolment pensions.
  • There is also a need to support people in immediate financial difficulty and to address financial inadequacy.

Points to consider

Methodological limitations:

  • Good overall but important to remember that suggested strategies do not arise directly from the survey.

Generalisability/ transferability:

  • Good transferability and comparability with other national studies using the same model.