Youngest Workers Ripe for Financial Education

September 12, 2014 ( - Biggest financial worries: unemployment, student loans, and whether Social Security will be adequate. Here comes Generation Z.

TD Ameritrade’s third-annual survey finds Generation Z (ages 15 to 24) open to investing but lacking financial literacy amid growing credit card debt and waning confidence in Social Security. With average student loan debt of $29,000, those in Generation Z understand the importance of saving. The survey takes a closer look at what this generation is doing right and where there is room for improvement. The survey also polled Generation Y (ages 25 to 37) this year, to see how these two generations differ.

Whatever the future holds, most Gen Zers say they plan to start a job, buy a car, pay off student debt, get married, buy a home, then begin saving for retirement—in that order. On average, Gen Z believe the right age to start saving for retirement is 27. According to the survey, only one in five Generation Z respondents say they are currently saving for retirement.

How does Gen Z plan to go about saving for retirement? Just 17% believe that the best way to plan for retirement is to invest in the stock market. While that’s up from 11% a year ago, many more (47%) believe that a savings account is the best way to prepare for retirement.

“While it’s promising to see that Gen Z is starting off with a good understanding of the importance of investing and saving, there is a tremendous opportunity to help educate them on all of the available options,” says Nicole Sherrod, managing director at TD Ameritrade. 

Members of Gen Z have some future concerns on their minds. An increased number of those in Gen Z—from 39% in 2013 to 44% this year—fear that Social Security and other similar government retirement programs will be depleted by the time they retire.

As the average cost of a four-year degree continues to rise, most (65%) high school-aged Gen Zers expect to pay tuition with assistance from scholarships and grants. The reality, however, may be a bit different: Only 54% of post-college Gen Zers and 50% of those in Gen Y actually benefited from scholarships and grants.

The survey found members of Gen Z increasingly feel saving is very important at this point in their lives (57% up from 50% in 2013). If handed $500, nine of 10 Gen Zers say they would save at least some of it.

Gen Z’s budgeting skills are improving, as 36% say they have a budget and follow it (up from 27% in 2013). However, there are some areas in which they could use a little guidance. The survey suggests credit card debt increases with age. The average debt for college-age Gen Z is $559, while for post-college-age Gen Z it is $975 and for Gen Y it is $1,946. Fewer members of Gen Z surveyed in 2014 (43%) say they pay off their credit card bills monthly, compared with 2013 (59%).

Video interviews and full survey findings can be found at TD Ameritrade’s site.