OP Financial Group and University of Helsinki join forces in a groundbreaking study of young people’s financial skills

The barometer survey of young people’s financial skills is the first of its kind in Finland, with results expected in summer 2024. The goals are to support young people in smart spending and curb over-indebtedness.

The financial skills of adolescents is an under-researched topic in Finland. Now the University of Helsinki, the University of Jyväskylä and OP Financial Group have joined forces to address this knowledge gap. A survey will be conducted at educational institutions across Finland to systematically explore for the first time the financial skills of young people aged 15 to 19. Issues examined include spending concerns, attitudes to saving and everyday financial management.

The goal is to produce significant new knowledge for social needs, including those of schools, decision-makers and the financing sector. The groundbreaking project is headed by Academy Professor Katariina Salmela-Aro of the University of Helsinki.

“We are pleased to merge the expertise of two universities and a large financial company in this collaboration to enhance adolescents’ financial skills. We believe the collaboration with OP Financial Group will produce practical information allowing us to develop tools that will increase young people’s financial wellbeing,” says Salmela-Aro.

The Group-funded survey will be conducted in comprehensive, general upper secondary and vocational schools this winter and spring. The first results will be published in June, with a longer report to follow in autumn.


Supporting young people in managing their finances

For years now, OP cooperative banks have been visiting schools to teach financial skills to teenagers. Now the Group wishes to gain a more in-depth understanding of the support young people need. Hannakaisa Länsisalmi, Chief People and Culture Officer at OP Financial Group, points out that financial skills are particularly important at the cusp of adulthood, as decisions about money may have far-reaching consequences.

“Over-indebtedness has increased among young people in recent years. We wish to understand their circumstances and help them as early as possible so they don’t get caught in a cycle of financial difficulties.”

OP Financial Group chose to collaborate with the universities of Helsinki and Jyväskylä to be able to collect detailed and nationally significant data. The aim is to repeat the survey at regular intervals to identify emerging trends and assess how different measures affect, for example, young people’s habits.

“A scholarly approach is important to ensure we obtain reliable data,” Länsisalmi notes.

She explains that the Group intends to use the results to develop services supporting young people’s financial skills and gain an idea of what to focus on during school visits. The new survey is currently the only Finnish study concentrating on teens’ financial skills.


Call for more open discussion on money

The survey merges the perspectives of two different research fields. Academy Professor Salmela-Aro will provide the University of Helsinki’s world-leading expertise in the educational sciences, whereas Professor of Sociology Terhi-Anna Wilska of the University of Jyväskylä will offer the useful perspective of consumer research.

Research on adolescents’ financial skills is important for reasons including the hereditary nature of parental socioeconomic status. The digitalisation of the economy has also led to a variety of influences on young people online as well as spur-of-the-moment purchase decisions. All this underlines the importance of basic knowledge.

“Financial skills are connected to overall wellbeing,” states Wilska. The new survey will supplement the data obtained from the 2018 PISA test and intersect with the EDUCA Flagship exploring the future of education. The researchers are hoping the results will encourage families to talk about money openly and factually. This is vital for young people as they make the transition to adulthood.

“Financial skills are essential in life,” concludes Salmela-Aro.