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Financial Planning > College Planning

Twenty-Somethings Losing Financial Ground

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Millennials feel less financially independent today than they did two years ago, according to a survey released Thursday by PNC Financial Services. Just 17% of 20-somethings with at least some college education said they feel completely independent financially, down from 23% in 2011.

Furthermore, nearly 60% said they are behind where they thought they’d be.

“Many of my peers suffer from a failure-to-launch syndrome directly related to the surge in unemployment during the Great Recession and slow pace of recovery,” Mekael Teshome, economist at The PNC Financial Services Group, said in a statement. “It is not a lack of ambition we are seeing in these data. It is more about a lack of opportunity that has hindered many young adults’ progress against their professional and financial objectives.” 

Despite feeling more dependent on their families, optimism is still high, the survey found, with 60% of less independent respondents saying they’ll stand on their own soon. The survey identified a turning point in optimism though, around age 25, when many respondents started to feel the effects of having to pay off debt, start a career and plan their financial future.

As for what defines financial independence, for 78% of respondents being able to pay the bills is the biggest milestone, although just 60% of older millennials (those between 25 and 29) said they’ve achieved it.

Nearly 60% of respondents said they’ll consider themselves independent when they get a full-time job in their chosen career. About a third have already achieved that goal, while 71% thought they’d be there by now.

Finally, 55% of respondents said moving out of their parents’ house was an essential part of financial independence, although 40% of all respondents said they still live at home. Over a quarter of older millennials live with their parents or other relatives. Interestingly, over half of respondents said they were better off than their parents were at their age.

In fact, although older millennial were more likely overall to rate themselves as financially independent, they were also more likely to feel like they were behind in their expectations. Women were especially likely to say they hadn’t achieved as much as they thought they would by their age.

College is an important part of feeling independent, too. About a third of high-school-only respondents said they feel fairly independent, compared to half of college educated respondents, and those with a degree rated themselves more independent on every factor versus those with only a high school education.

Artemis Strategy Group polled more than 3,200 adults between ages 20 and 29 in June for the PNC survey.


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