The Kids Are Not All Right

More than a third of teens still expect to be financially dependent on their parents by age 30.

In a national survey of 1,000 U.S. teenagers aged 13-18, owning a car by age 30 seemed quite achievable — 74 percent agreed they would have purchased an automobile before exiting their 20s. Many other trappings of adulthood appear further out of reach, however. The survey, conducted by Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Junior Achievement USA and Citizens Bank of Providence, R.I., found that only 60 percent of teens believe they will own a home by age 30, and less than half feel they will have paid off their student loans (43 percent) and started saving for retirement (44 percent).

“These survey findings show a disconcerting lack of confidence among teens when it comes to achieving financial goals,” said Jack Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement. “With a strong economy, you would think teens would be more optimistic. It just demonstrates the importance of working with young people to help them better understand financial concepts and gain confidence in their ability to manage their financial futures.”

According to survey results, the top financial goal for teens is getting a full-time job (62 percent). Other financial goals included graduating from a four-year college (59 percent), no longer having to rely on parents or caregivers for money (53 percent) and saving enough money for a big trip or vacation (41 percent). Looking to the future, teens are concerned about paying for college (47 percent), not being able to afford to live on their own (45 percent), paying taxes (43 percent) and finding a fulfilling, well-paying job (40 percent).

“It’s clear that more has to be done to help prepare students for the future — whether it is through helping them navigate paying for college or educating them on how to manage their money by establishing savings and checking accounts,” said Brendan Coughlin, president of consumer deposits and lending at Citizens. “We are helping to equip our young people with the tools necessary so they can start on sound footing and make smart financial decisions.”

Most teens (64 percent) look to their parents or caregivers for financial advice, followed by other family members (38 percent), friends (30 percent) and online resources such as articles or social media (27 percent). Of those currently earning their own money, the majority (61 percent) do have a bank account, but the rest save their money unbanked (think shoeboxes and piggy banks).

While the number of teens earning money by working independently rose in 2019 (22 percent compared to 16 percent in 2018), 64 percent of teens still depend on monetary gifts for spending cash, and 32 percent receive an allowance for completing chores and other tasks.

Sadly, but not surprisingly given the recent national conversations surrounding the gender pay gap, among teens currently in school, more female respondents (40 percent) than males (34 percent) believed they would earn less than $35,000 in their first full-time job post-high school.

The survey was conducted by Wakefield Research and included teens who are not currently enrolled in college.

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