Modern Financial Literacy

Trends / Technology
Rebecca Rom-Frank
Feb 2, 2024
In response to consumer stress, financial brands have been using more visuals showing wellness—but visualizing modern financial literacy is still a challenge.
By the end of 2023, 70% of Americans reported feeling stressed about money,1 and financial brands responded by promoting the idea of financial wellness in their visual messaging: Compared to 2019, US financial brands used +65% more visuals showing mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, and these types of visuals have now become +128% more popular since 2015.

However, financial services brands—even traditional banks—are now positioning themselves as holistic problem‑solvers for consumers.2  At Getty Images, customer searches for “financial literacy” were up +33% year‑over‑year, eclipsing searches for “financial wellness,” which were only up +5%, indicating that this is the new frontier of visual communications for this industry. Whereas the 2010’s were a golden era for FinTech products, rising interest rates have allowed banks to catch up and offer their customers digital tools, too. For example, while consumers used to rely on third party budgeting apps, many traditional banks now offer these same tools embedded right in their own digital apps. With household debt a mounting problem,3 there is an opportunity for financial services brands to convey their offerings through updated visual choices around the concept of financial literacy.
Updating financial literacy for the digital age
In our increasingly cashless world, financial brands are still using analog symbols to represent financial literacy. In 2022, 41% of Americans said none of their purchases were paid for using cash, up from 29% in 2018.4 Still, among the top one million customer searches on Getty Images in 2023 were “money” (#3), “bank” (#130), and “piggy bank” (#275). In fact, amongst popular visuals showing children’s financial education, nearly half show piggy banks, even though many kids and teens are now learning to manage their money using apps and credit cards, just like their parents. To update financial literacy for the digital age, consider visuals which show parents educating kids about money using digital tools or credit cards, or which show people of all ages using digital apps for saving, budgeting, and investing.
The power of personalization 
Our VisualGPS consumer survey found that 90% of Americans are looking for trustworthy, personalized financial advice, but financial brands tend to visualize a limited range of contexts and personalities surrounding digital products. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average consumer spends very little time on banking and financial services activities—just 1.3% of their month5—yet most popular visuals of people on phones and laptops appear settled in at home for a long, focused financial planning session. Just 5% of these visuals show a person multitasking, and just 2% of visuals showing technology show users on the go, or in any specific context other than an office or home. As part of our VisualGPS consumer survey, we found that an image of a man dressed in a colorful shirt showing off his personal style felt more trustworthy to consumers than an image of an authoritative man in a suit. So, to convey the personalization that these new digital financial literacy tools offer, consider visuals which provide a fuller story about the person pictured through more specific visual cues such as identity, styling, activity, or setting.
Younger generations think finance is cool—so meet them where they are!
While it’s true that younger generations are more likely to seek out instant financial advice from online influencers, they still trust the professionals. 80% of Gen Z and Millennials have gotten financial advice from online influencers,6 but our VisualGPS consumer survey found that less than half of that age group actually finds the advice trustworthy. In fact, younger generations trust visuals produced by professional creators two times more than those posted by influencers.

Financial brands are missing out on the opportunity to engage with the age group that is most likely to say that they are struggling with their finances. Our visual analysis found that just 2% of popular visuals showing financial planning topics included Gen Z, and among popular video clips, just 10% show Gen Z engaging with financial topics. It’s clear that younger age groups want to know more, so consider showing them specifically engaged in financial planning or budgeting, ideally with aesthetic appeal through techniques such as tertiary color palettes, collage, or animation.
Visualising Education for Gen Z in Europe