Childhood Consumer Experience and the Financial Literacy of College Students in Malaysia


  • Authors’ Note: Mohamad Fazli Sabri is a Lecturer in the Department of Resource Management and Consumer Studies at University Putra Malaysia. Maurice MacDonald is a Professor of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University. Tahira K. Hira is a Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University. Jariah Masud is a Research Fellow in Gerontology at University Putra Malaysia. Please address correspondence to Maurice MacDonald, 302 Justin Hall, College of Human Ecology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-1403; e-mail:; or Mohamad Fazli Sabri, Palmer Building, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50010-4380; e-mail:


The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of personal and family background, academic ability, and childhood consumer experiences on the financial literacy of college students in Malaysia. The sample comprised 2,519 students in 11 public and private colleges in Malaysia. Financial literacy was measured with a 25-item test of financial knowledge. On average, students answered less than half of the questions correctly. Methods of analysis included bivariate t tests, analysis of variance, and multiple regression analysis. The childhood consumer experience of discussing family finances with parents has a substantial positive relationship with financial literacy. Students of Chinese ethnicity, who live on campus, and who attend private colleges are less likely to be financially literate.