New Research Shows Majority of Teens Feel Unprepared to Finance Their Futures 

Lack of access to technology emerging as top concern; high schoolers remain concerned about rising higher education costs

After two uncertain and often stressful years, high school students are worried about their financial futures, prompting more than half (54%) of teens to say they feel unprepared to finance their futures according to new research from Junior Achievement and Citizens. The findings of the fifth annual JA Teens & Personal Finance Survey indicate wide-ranging concern among teens regarding financial anxiety and the future, highlighting the need for additional resources to assist them in making financial decisions that impact them over the long term. 

  • More than two-thirds of teens (69%) say that rising education costs have affected their plans for additional education after high school.  
  • While nearly a third of teens (31%) don’t expect their plans to be impacted, almost as many (28%) say they are now only considering in-state schools, while around a fifth (22%) plan to live at home and commute to college, and one-in-ten (10%) are considering getting a two-year degree versus a four-year degree.

 “Empowering students and families financially can help them for the rest of their lives,” said Peter Camilleri, Retail District Branch Manager, Ohio, Citizens. “In order to ease uncertainly  and ensure that teens have the confidence to make sound financial decisions, it’s critical to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need through increasing access to educational resources and providing hands-on training.” Teens said some of these concerns could be addressed with a better understanding of how student loans work (39%), knowing how education ties to jobs (38%), or having access to lower-cost alternatives (32%). A significant portion of respondents (41%) said they have had no financial literacy classes in school, further highlighting the need for educational resources that would address these concerns.  

The digital divide became even more apparent at the outset of the pandemic, exacerbating digital literacy and technology equipment gaps. Of those teens planning to pursue a four-year degree, two-thirds (66%) expressed some level of concern about having the technology needed to complete a degree. Factors that contribute to this concern include the cost of devices (52%) and poor Wi-Fi access/connectivity (28%). This lack of access becomes an inhibitor to young people to learn, work and even go to college.  “Based on the survey results, it appears the rising cost of higher education is having an impact on the way teens plan to pursue higher education,” said Joe Faulhaber, President of Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland.

“The data also suggest teens find it important to develop a deeper understanding of how to finance higher education through student loans.That’s why Junior Achievement works with partners like Citizens to provide this type of information through our learning experiences for middle and high school students.”

Cecil Fidram
 says college costs are prohibitive, so the Austintown Fitch High School junior is thinking of staying at home and commuting to Youngstown State University. While he has spoken with his parents a lot about finances, he doesn’t think all of his classmates are financially prepared for the future.  “My advice to people who are worried about finances is to look at your goal of going to college,’’ said Cecil. “Think about what you want to do. Maybe you could consider going to a trade school or getting a two-year degree.’’ Both Junior Achievement and Citizens have prioritized the issue in their community outreach work and remain committed to supporting underserved communities through technology, education, and digital literacy initiatives to ensure that all have an opportunity to be part of the workforce of the future. Citizens’ commitment to financial literacy has included partnering with Junior Achievement to support the implementation of financial literacy programs in communities where Citizens has a presence. Citizens also helped Junior Achievement enhance different implementation models, such as virtual volunteering and remote learning, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Additional interesting findings from the survey include:

  • 62 percent of teens use mobile or online applications to assist with money management, compared to 48 percent from a similar survey in 2019.
  • 38 percent of teens say cash is still their preferred payment method, compared to 2 percent who prefer apps.
  • 57 percent of teens say their parents use cash when giving them money, down from 71 percent in 2019, while 20 percent say their parents use apps, compared to 9 percent in 2019.
  • There has been a decline in the use of traditional financial tools by teens, specifically debit cards (59% today vs. 62% in 2019), credit cards (24% today vs. 30% in 2019), and checkbooks (9% today vs. 18% in 2019), over the same period.

 More information and an executive summary of the survey are available at this link

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