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.
When asked, in an open-ended question, their biggest concern with today’s economy, members of Gen Z were most likely to say jobs and unemployment. This was their biggest worry in 2013 as well. However, it appears to have diminished, down to 25% from 34%, mirroring, perhaps, the improvement in employment rate for the class of 2014.
Jobs may be today’s worry, but members of Gen Z have some future concerns on their minds as well. 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.
Loan Debts and Worries
As the average student loan debt has continued to climb, it’s no surprise that nearly half (44%) of those in Gen Z say they worry about having a large student loan balance when they graduate.
Despite fears of accruing too much student loan debt, the majority of those in Gen Z (72%) have attended, are currently in or plan to attend college. Additionally, 53% say they plan to pursue an advanced degree. That’s likely because they increasingly believe that a college education is key to their success (60% feel it’s very important, up from 54% in 2013). The older members of Gen Y are less likely to see college as very important (47%). However, among those in Gen Y who went to college, 51% still feel their college education was worth every penny invested.
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.
Some highlights of Gen Z’s fiscal responsibility from the survey include:
- Those in Gen Z increasingly feel that saving is very important (57%) at this point in their lives, up from 50% in 2013;
- If handed $500, nine of 10 Gen Zers say they would save at least some of it; and
- And their budgeting skills are improving with age, as 36% say they have a budget and follow it (up from 27% in 2013).
While members of Gen Z appear to be taking some good steps toward their financial futures, there are some areas in which they could use a little guidance. It appears 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.