Reality bites, and teens are more aware than ever about the economic hardships they may soon face. A recent survey from Junior Achievement and The AllState Foundation reported that just 56% of kids 14 to 18 think they will be as financially well-off, or better off than their parents. That's down from 89% in 2011.
Two factors are likely contributing to this: Teens are more aware – and more directly affected – if their parents are facing a money crisis nowadays, and teens are still going into adulthood unequipped to handle their finances. A Charles Schwab & Co. survey reported that one in four 18-year-olds said they knew how to manage a credit card in 2011, down from 64% in 2007. Just 43% knew how to balance a checkbook or check the accuracy of a bank statement, a shift from 60% in 2007.
As you may know, one of our goals at Vantage is to promote financial literacy. We do so through our work with clients (both as lawyers and secondary market structured settlement advisors), and through our volunteer work with Junior Achievement. Oftentimes, teens aren’t learning the basics such as how to balance a checkbook, manage a credit card, or invest for their future. Parents aren’t involving their children in these lessons at home, and teachers don’t have time to teach it in class. Junior Achievement, the organization that places volunteers in classrooms for five weeks to teach financial lessons, may be the saving grace to fill the gap where they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to these fundamentals.
This lack of knowledge and confidence may also translate into more teens living at home longer, foregoing education in favor of a paycheck, and not taking the steps toward a more secure future. The Junior Achivement survey also says that teens have also extended the time line on how long they expect to need money from a parent or guardian. 18% say they'll be financially independent by age 20, vs. 44% who said that a year ago. 23% think they will be able to live independently by ages 25 to 27.
The best thing we can do for our kids is to challenge them to manage their money – whether it be a $5 weekly allowance or pay from an after-school job – as early as possible. Involve them in discussion or let them make the hard choice when it comes to gas and food money vs. movie and go-out money. Find the balance between stressing your teens out and shielding them from reality.
Jay Fisher is co-founder of Vantage Capital Consultants, a purchaser of structured settlements.