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Gen Z on Paying for College, Leaving the Nest

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We’re running out of generations—or at least clever tags.

Ranging from age 13 to 22, nearly half of those in Generation Z (yes, Generation Z) say their biggest worry is having a large student loan balance when they graduate college (up from 39% in 2012), and 36% are concerned about being able to afford college at all, according to a recent survey from TD Ameritrade.

The company adds that considering the cost of college has risen more than 1,120% in the last 35 years, it comes as no surprise. But the survey uncovered many more surprising insights into this group of teens and early 20-somethings.

Gen Z Goes to College …

Despite the climbing cost of college tuition, more than half (54%) of those in Gen Z still believe obtaining a higher education is critical to achieving success. And 64% agree that college is worth the cost because it helps secure employment.

The majority of those in Gen Z (72%) expect to attend college or are currently attending college, and despite the large price tag, 61% plan to seek an advanced/graduate degree. Only one in five has considered delaying college due to the expense.

Teens and early 20-somethings seem to understand the importance of saving money. If given $500, a whopping 70% would save at least a portion of it, and 34% would save it specifically for college.

Growing Up and Moving Out

On average, members of Gen Z expect to be living on their own by age 21. But, 63% say they feel welcome to move back in with their parents in the future if they can’t swing it on their own. This young generation appears to have no qualms about moving back home, either. In fact, many see some benefits to living with their parents. Eighty-one percent of those currently living at home after college or planning to do so say it allows them to save money, while nearly half (48%) say it allows them to be selective about employment opportunities.

Parents, fear not. Gen Z doesn’t plan to live at home forever. When asked at what age they would be embarrassed to still be living at home, Gen Z, on average, said age 28. Nearly nine out of 10 (88%) would be embarrassed to still be living at home at 30, and half (49%) would be embarrassed to still be living at home at age 25.

For parents who want to encourage their kids to flee the nest after college, it appears having a job may inspire independence. The survey revealed that Gen Z kids who have had or currently have a job are less likely to move back in with Mom and Dad after college. Those who have never worked are significantly more likely to want to return to live with parents (39% vs. 26%).

First Job Expectations

The bleak job market and high unemployment rates appear to have triggered a sense of pragmatism among Gen Z when it comes to salary expectations. They’re not expecting six figures out of college. Instead, members of Gen Z anticipate a conservative $36,900 annual salary for their first job out of college, compared with the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which said the starting salary for graduates in 2012 is approximately $44,000.Yet, they do expect their income to grow over time and anticipate making $119,000 per year by the time they reach age 60.

For Gen Z, job satisfaction is a priority. Seventy-seven percent say job satisfaction is of equal importance to, if not more important than their salary, and 44% are willing to move almost anywhere for their ideal job (girls are significantly more likely than boys to do so; 49% vs. 41%).

Check out Gen X and Y Saving Earlier Than Boomers, but Gen Z Is Naïve: TD Ameritrade.


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