Data and Research

Millennials Need Financial Education

More than half have retirement accounts, but many are heavily indebted and borrow against their assets.

By Lee Barney editors@plansponsor.com | February 09, 2017

Millennials believe they are knowledgeable about their finances but that doesn’t match with reality, according to research funded by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) and conducted by George Washington University.

“Millennials are known for having unrelenting belief in their own abilities,” says Ted Beck, president and chief executive officer of NEFE. “This generation is diverse and highly educated. However, their overconfidence puts them in an extremely fragile position, and, sadly, they don’t realize it.” 

A mere 24% were able to answer questions about basic financial matters, with only 8% showing a high level of knowledge. At the same time, 69% gave themselves high marks for their knowledge.

“What young adults don’t know about money can hurt them,” Beck continues. “This is our opportunity to reach them with relevant financial education to help close the gap.” Financial wellness programs could certainly help them.

Eighty-eight percent have a bank account, and 51% have a retirement account. More than 40% own their own home, and 25% have investments in stocks, bonds or mutual funds.

However, 53% say they are carrying a burdensome amount of debt. Sixty-six percent have at least one source of long-term debt (student loan, mortgage or car loan), and 30% are paying back more than one source of long-term debt.

More than 33% have unpaid medical bills, and 20% of those with a retirement account either took a loan or made a hardship withdrawal in the past 12 months.

Eighteen percent are “not at all satisfied” with their current personal financial situation, and only 6% are “extremely satisfied.”

Asked if they could come up with $2,000 within a month to handle a sudden financial emergency, 48% said no. Only 32% have set aside the funds to cover three months’ worth of household expenses. Nearly 30% of those with a bank account had overdrawn funds against it in the past year.

The survey is based on the findings of 5,525 Millennials between the ages of 25 and 35.

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