Gen Y Takes 'Collaborative' Approach to Finances

Gen Y is more optimistic, less likely to trust an advisor

TD Ameritrade released a survey Wednesday on the differences in financial education and attitudes between generations.

The report noted that Gen Y is "collaborative" when it comes to finding financial information; 60% will ask their friends, relatives and colleagues for information, compared with 46% of Gen X, 43% of boomers and just 31% of matures. It should be no surprise then that one-third of Gen Y respondents turn to social media for news about the economy and financial markets.

The survey found 61% of respondents use television and radio talk shows for information on economic and financial issues. Over 50% use daily newspapers. People born between 1930 and 1945, or matures, were most likely to use daily newspapers, while those born between 1965 and 1989, which includes Gen X and Gen Y, were most likely to use news websites. Almost two-thirds of Gen Y respondents say they use news websites, and 52% of Gen X respondents do.

Boomers are most likely to use professional advisors to get news, but older generations are similarly dependent on advisors. Thirty-eight percent of boomers, 37% of matures and 32% of Gen X use their advisor to get news about the economy and financial markets, but just 21% of Gen Y does.

There's a gap, however, in where respondents go for information and how much they trust those sources. While 38% of boomers go to their advisor for information, just 22% reported that they trust their advisor. Gen X didn't indicate trust in any one source; rather, 17% noted traditional media, investment advisors and news-oriented websites each as trustworthy sources.

While 21% of Gen Y respondents said they trust their friends or talk show hosts, just 10% say they trust professional advisors as a source of news.

Most respondents (81%) say they were exposed to money management principles before they turned 20, and almost 80% of respondents feel this was appropriate. Younger generations are learning to save and spend wisely at younger ages. Forty-one percent of matures say they learned financial principles in their teens, compared with 69% of Gen Y.

Parents were unsurprisingly the most frequently cited source of financial education, but 74% of respondents said they felt schools should take more responsibility. Compared with Gen X and Gen Y, matures are twice as likely to think that employers should play a role in financial education.

Although most respondents learned the basics early, 57% said they didn't learn about investing in the stock market until their 20s or 30s. Among respondents who own stocks, bonds, mutual funds or exchange-traded funds, 54% say they have "just average knowledge" of the stock market.

Gen Y and matures agreed that managing their income and living within their means was their top financial priority, though Gen Y was slightly more confident about their ability to do so (47% compared with 44% of matures). Boomers just want to live comfortably (34%), but only 26% are confident in their ability to do that. Gen X is focused on reducing personal debt - one-quarter said this was their biggest priority – and are confident they can do so. Gen X is also the most likely to say they regret not saving enough for the future (62%), although all generations agreed this was their biggest regret.

Older generations agreed, though, that being debt-free was their definition of financial success, with roughly one-third of each group citing no debt as a mark of success. Among Gen Y respondents, 36% said being able to put money aside each month was how they defined financial success.

Nearly 60% of matures say they have already achieved financial success. Younger generations are far less likely to agree. Just 18% of boomers say they've achieved success, compared with 8% of Gen X and 9% of Gen Y. While Gen Y is ever so slightly more apt than Gen X to say they've achieved financial success, they're also most likely to say they are on their way to success. Sixty-four percent of Gen Y respondents say they are on their way, compared with 56% of Gen X and 48% of boomers. Sadly, 20% of boomers and Gen X say that while they're working on it, they may never be financially successful. At 13%, Gen X respondents are most likely to say it's unlikely that they'll achieve financial success, followed closely by boomers at 12%.

Matures who are struggling to achieve financial success attribute their difficulties to costs associated with health care, while the younger generations agree their biggest obstacle is expenses that are rising faster than their income.

Eighty-five percent of respondents reported that it requires more self-discipline and knowledge to manage personal finances today than it used to, according to the report. Still, 93% say they are confident about their ability to manage their finances, although 60% said they would be more comfortable if they knew more about investing. Of the 55% of respondents who called themselves "investors," Gen X and Gen Y were more likely to say managing their personal budget was more difficult than managing their investment portfolio. Boomers were evenly split – 47% said their personal budget was more difficult to manage, and 47% said their investment portfolio was more challenging.

The survey was conducted in late 2010 by Maritz Inc. among over 950 adults between 21 and 80.

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