We are a nation of illiterates. Financial illiterates, that is.
Despite a proliferation of games and apps, and efforts by many schools to teach the subject, financial literacy actually declined between 2009 and 2012, according to a survey.
(Read More: Financial Literacy Games: Tools or Toys?)
"Directionally, it was discouraging," said Gerri Walsh, president of the Investor Education Foundation at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which conducted the survey. "We haven't seen great improvement, and that's where we want to go."
The foundation asked a series of questions about respondents' financial habits and condition, and gave them a quiz to measure their capability. A majority of respondents, 61 percent, were unable to answer three of the five questions correctly. In 2009, that number was just 58 percent. (You can take a crack at it here.)
The results come as teens and young adults are being asked to make increasingly momentous decisions, such as taking out loans for college and managing credit card debt.
(See More: The Young & the Jobless)
"We see that 26 percent of Americans have some form of medical debt, and 20 percent have student loans," Walsh said. "Overall, the respondents to our survey said they were very concerned about debt."
That concern can translate into reluctance to spend—a prudent move for individuals but problematic for an economy struggling to gain momentum.
"In my view, the student debt market, the fact that young people are now facing these challenges, is a very compelling reason to have financial education in schools," said Annamaria Lusardi, a professor of economics and accountancy at George Washington University's business school.