Young Adults & Money Survey

The majority of today's young adults care more about financial fitness than physical fitness

The latest survey on families and money from Charles Schwab found the majority (52 percent) of young adults between the ages of 23 and 28 consider "making better choices about managing money" the single most important issue for individual Americans to act on today. They believe it outweighs the need to strengthen family relationships (18 percent), protect the environment (11 percent) and improve personal nutrition and health (9 percent).

Moreover, almost two-thirds of young adults (64 percent) say financial fitness is more important than physical fitness, and the majority (51 percent) believe that financial education in school, grades K-12, is more important than both physical education (31 percent) and sex education (18 percent) combined. These are among the key findings of the latest annual survey on the topic of families and money by Charles Schwab.

Here are some immediate actions that you can share with young people to help them get on the right track:

"This age group is clearly riveted by our weakened economy," said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation. "When we see people in their 20s prioritizing responsible money management over personal nutrition and health, it seems clear that the need for individual accountability has penetrated deeply into the culture. Without diminishing the importance of good health, these results are very encouraging and could signal a new era of financial responsibility among American consumers." But it’s not just individuals who are called on to take steps on their own. More than one in three young adults (36 percent) agree that the single most important action the Obama Administration could take to improve financial literacy in the United States would be to create incentives (or provide additional funding) for states that mandate personal finance in the standard high school curriculum. Another 36 percent in the aggregate believe the Administration should create economic incentives encouraging employers to provide holistic financial education for their employees, and fund a public awareness campaign for financial literacy to encourage parents to do a better job of teaching their kids money basics.

Young adults see their "financial physique" as "flabby"

Twenty-three- to twenty-eight-year-olds show some unexpectedly traditional views when it comes to personal finance. When asked to rank the relative importance of conflicting priorities, such as eliminating all debt vs. buying a new car, or saving as much money as possible vs. having as much fun as possible, they generally make the more responsible choice.

Yet despite this and their perception that financial fitness is more important than physical fitness, fewer than one in five (18 percent) consider their own financial physique to be "toned and fit." More than three in four young adults describe their financial health as either "a little flabby" (55 percent) or "seriously out of shape" (27 percent).

Their behaviors may bear this out. On average, those surveyed carry more than $14,000 in debt (excluding home mortgages). Of those who use credit cards, only one-third (33 percent) pay off their entire balance every month, while the other two-thirds make payments less reliably. Nearly ten percent make payments only when they can.

With respect to this age group’s self-assessed financial health, the survey uncovered gender differences as well. Women were more likely than men to describe themselves as "financially flabby" (34 percent versus 20 percent), and also more likely to believe financial responsibility should be a national priority (55 percent versus 49 percent).

Many young adults still rely on their parents in some way

The largest percentage of survey respondents say they were most surprised to learn how much money it takes to live independently as they "began to live life on their own" (26 percent). Not surprisingly, only about half (51 percent) are financially independent from their parents. One in four (26 percent) still live with their parents; of those, 28 percent are unemployed while another 26 percent made the choice to live with their parents in order to save money.

Young adults rely on their parents in other ways as well. The majority (56 percent) attribute their knowledge of money management basics to their parents, with significant numbers continuing to turn to their parents for ongoing financial advice (43 percent). However, many in this age group admit they don’t feel adequately prepared to make good financial choices when it comes to using debt wisely (28 percent), saving for the future (40 percent) or investing their money (43 percent). And when asked which aspects of personal finance they wish they had learned more about before entering the workforce, living within a budget (45 percent), and the importance of saving (42 percent) rise to the top of the list.


About the survey
The 2009 Young Adults & Money survey was conducted by Lieberman Research Worldwide on behalf of Charles Schwab in January 2009. The nationally-representative online survey polled 1,252 young adults between the ages of 23 and 28 using Real-Time Sampling (RTS), a marketing research technique in which respondents were recruited in real-time from a network of hundreds of prescreened websites. The survey findings have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points at the 90 percent confidence level.

The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager.


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