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What Do Millennials Know About Personal Finance? Not Enough, Says a Recent Study.

Unemployment. Underemployment. Student loan debt. Coming of age during the Great Recession, many millennials are facing hurdles their parents never had to jump over. But they also aren’t taking control of their personal finances.

Just 24 percent of millennials have a basic understanding of financial literacy, according to a recent report from the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at the George Washington University. Only 8 percent demonstrate a high level of financial literacy.

The study looks at the personal finances of millennials, born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, and the factors that threaten their economic hopes and security. Researchers found some shocking statistics:

  • 34 percent are very unsatisfied with their financial situation.
  • More than 54 percent expressed concern about their student loans.
  • 81 percent have at least one long-term debt.
  • 30 percent are overdrawing on their checking accounts.
  • 42 percent have used an alternative financial services such as payday loans, pawnshops and rent-to-own products.
  • 20 percent took loans or hardship withdrawals in the past year from their retirement accounts.
  • Only 27 percent sought professional financial help on saving and investment.

Millennials, in many ways, can’t be blamed entirely for getting themselves into this mess as they pull from retirement savings and lean on high-cost methods to borrow money.

Automation and the high number of baby boomers who are staying on the job are a couple of reasons why they’re struggling to find work. More than 20 percent of underemployed recent college graduates are making less than $25,000 a year in low-wage jobs, according to the Pew Research Center.

Student loan debt has been on the rise as family incomes have stagnated and fewer government grants and other support is available for college educations. The Class of 2016 is facing a record amount of debt at an average of more than $37,100 per student -- up 6 percent from just the year before.

But, despite the factors against them, the study says it’s critical for millennials to make important changes to the way they live -- and fund -- their lives.

“Millennials’ financial practices are of concern because of the potential for these behaviors to become firmly established,” the study says. “Indeed, the research has documented that the gap between the amount of financial responsibility given to young Americans and their demonstrated ability to manage financial decisions is rapidly widening. Furthermore, their knowledge deficit could prove disastrous for them, the economy and society.”

The report recommends expanding access to financial education, starting in the schools, to boost financial literacy for future generations.

That education should include the dangers of, for instance, payday lending and rent-to-own schemes; the pitfalls of borrowing from retirement plans; and the value of seeking professional financial advice, including on debt management.

There are some encouraging signs in the U.S. economy, which could mean more jobs and opportunities for millennials. But more money won’t entirely solve their financial health. Better financial literacy -- so they can spend and save wisely -- will.

1 Response to What Do Millennials Know About Personal Finance? Not Enough, Says a Recent Study.

  1. Panda says:

    The key is to live below your means. If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it. Always be sure to have some margin in your life. Even if you live at the poverty line, it IS possible to have money at the end of the month, invest, and retire a millionaire. The question is what are you going to give up to make that possible.

    Our problem is we have to have a nice car we can’t afford, we want to buy stuff, we think we are entitled to go out to eat every week, etc., etc., etc… Even student loan debt is avoidable. Choose a less expensive school, spend your senior year in high school applying for every scholarship you can get your hands on, and be prepared to work full time while in school to pay the remaining balance.

    When we 1. live below our means and 2. avoid debt, retiring wealthy is something EVERYONE can do.

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