The Schwab survey1 on families and money found that the majority of young adults ages 23–28 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%), protect the environment (11%), and improve personal nutrition and health (9%).
Moreover, almost two-thirds of young adults say financial fitness is more important than physical fitness, and the majority believe that financial education in school, grades K–12, is more important than both physical education and sex education combined.
"When we see people in their 20s prioritizing responsible money management over personal nutrition and health,” says Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation, “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 agree that the single most important action the current 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% in the aggregate believe that 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 ages 23–28 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 these responses and their perception that financial fitness is more important than physical fitness, fewer than one in five considers 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%) or "seriously out of shape" (27%).
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 pay off their entire balance every month, while the other two-thirds make payments less reliably. Nearly 10% 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% vs. 20%) and were also more likely to believe financial responsibility should be a national priority (55% vs. 49%).
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." Not surprisingly, only about half are financially independent from their parents. One in four still lives with their parents; of those, 28% are unemployed while another 26% 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 attribute their knowledge of money management basics to their parents, with significant numbers continuing to turn to their parents for ongoing financial advice. 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, saving for the future, or investing their money. And when asked which aspects of personal finance they wish they had learned more about before entering the workforce, living within a budget and the importance of saving rise to the top of the list.
Parents can play an important role in influencing the financial behaviors of young adults. Here are some tips that you can share to help them get on track:
Learn how to manage your savings no matter where you are in life.
Use savings and debt calculators to help you reach your financial goals.
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