Tax Day regrets: 32% say they learned ‘nothing at all’ about finances in school

NEW YORK — Another Tax Day is (mercifully) in the books. The dreaded T-word strikes fear into the hearts of even the bravest among us. So, just how deep does this aversion go? It turns out one in four people would rather spend an evening wrestling with homework rather than tackle their taxes!

A survey of 2,000 Americans split evenly by generation (500 Gen Z, 500 millennials, 500 Gen X, and 500 baby boomers) reveals that respondents would also rather dissect a frog (14%), take the SATs (11%), or take a calculus exam (9%) than file their taxes each year. The poll also asked Americans how much practical information they learned in school and found that a majority feel like they only use half of the information they learned during their adult lives (52%).

This may also be why 55 percent admit that they rely on Google more than their formal education, with the average American searching five basic questions each day. Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of the banking app Chime, the survey also found that one-third (32%) of Americans learned “nothing at all” about personal finances during their school years. 

infographic on thing people would prefer to have an adult crash course for

Results show that respondents knew more about information that is rarely used in daily life, like the definitions of equilateral (72%), scalene (69%), and isosceles triangles (57%), than they did about crucial financial information, such as the difference between a W-2 and a W-4 (46%).

While more than half (52%) of Gen Zers were able to identify the mitochondria as the powerhouse of the cell, only a quarter (26%) of the same group correctly defined “taxable income” as money, property, or services you earn through work, investments and other means.

Results also found that while 63 percent of all respondents consider themselves smarter than the average middle schooler, 16 percent of both baby boomers and Gen X don’t feel like they are. 

“Everyone has strengths when it comes to money, but it’s clear that schools have not taught our country properly on the topic. Results found that 48 percent of Gen Z and millennial respondents believe that their ‘financial literacy age’ is 20 years old or younger,” says spokesperson Sara El-Amine, vice president of Community for Chime, in a statement. “Financial education is a lifelong learning process that takes time and sometimes trial and error. There seems to be a real opportunity in America to build foundational lessons earlier in life and set up everyday people to feel empowered and confident to achieve their financial goals.”

person in black suit jacket holding white tablet computer
The study reveals that 32 percent of Americans learned “nothing at all” about personal finances during their time in school. (Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash)

The survey also found that there is an eagerness for progress in financial education. Eighty-one percent of respondents would be willing to take an “adulting crash course” or the opportunity to learn relevant skills for being an adult. The topic that they’d like to learn about most is managing their personal finances (39%), followed by how to do their taxes (33%), and home buying and mortgages (31%).

Others would like to learn how to write a cover letter or resume (23%), how to change the oil in their car (22%), or even how to cook (21%). Americans also believe that those same topics should be taught in high school, along with workplace etiquette (44%), how to clean (25%) or do laundry (23%), as well as relationship guidance (22%).

When it comes to managing their finances, Americans struggle the most with sticking to a budget (34%), paying off debts (30%), and investing (28%). Understanding how their finances today impact their future (30%), working with a financial advisor (29%), and taking a class on finances (28%) are the top ways Americans say they would feel more confident in managing their finances.

“Money is a part of our everyday lives — in big ways and small ones — much more so than calculus or geometry. So why isn’t it a standard part of education? The results of the survey really emphasize the importance of building a solid understanding of finance basics in adulthood, and, with Financial Literacy Month in April, there’s no better time to get started,” says El-Amine. “When you feel more confident in understanding your finances, you’ll also feel more confident in taking on the adult world.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 U.S. adults split evenly by generation (500 Gen Z, 500 millennials, 500 Gen X and 500 baby boomers) was commissioned by Chime between Feb. 29 and March 4, 2024. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).


  1. The inequity of education begins at home and yes, there will always be weaknesses but the missing main point is that education should be a lifelong pursuit and that is what is not being instilled by our institutions. What isn’t taught in school can easily be remedied through engaging life.

Comments are closed.