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:
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.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. empowers people to overcome their financial challenges and lead financially-healthy lives.
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