Financial literacy is perceived as important and yet what does the term financial literacy actually mean? An exploration of literature examining aspects of individuals'
financial literacy in particular contexts found a conceptualisation to be absent despite
the term being adopted widely. This study addressed this omission and sought a
conceptualisation of financial literacy. A reflexive, ethnographic approach was
adopted for this exploratory study which examined the experiences of school
governors. The study explored a proposed model of financial literacy as a meaningmaking
A conceptualisation of financial literacy as a sense-making process is offered latterly,
where financial literacy is conceptualised as a process involving individuals
constructing and making informed decisions with financial consequences. The aim of
individuals taking these decisions is to achieve desired outcomes. The
conceptualisation is necessarily offered tentatively as a result of the exploratory
nature of the study.
Acceptance of the conceptualisation offered requires serious revisions in the way
financial literacy is currently understood. This thesis argues that financial literacy is a
construct relevant to the social world which is characterised by equivocality and
ambiguity. The governors in this study engaged in sense-making in order to make the
environment sensible. This required governors to seek plausible solutions rather than accurate ones, although there was little evidence to support the view that they
recognised this. Financial literacy has previously been concerned with accuracy,
rather than plausibility. This thesis argues that it is time for a new era for financial
literacy where financial literacy is conceptualised as a sense-making process seeking
plausibility rather than accuracy in environments characterised by ambiguity and
The usefulness of the conceptualisation of financial literacy offered in this thesis is in
need of ffirther exploration. The relationship between financial literacy and other
terms, such as financial awareness and financial capability, was found to be poorly
understood and in need of further clarification.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.