Here we are in April, which I'm sure you know is National Financial Literacy Month. It's National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month and National Frog Month, too. I kid you not. And it's also when we get Charles Schwab's
Here are just a few highlights from the Charles Schwab Teens & Money 2007 survey. First, the good news:
- Fully 93% believe that it's important to know how to live within your means and to have good money habits to be successful in life.
- Some 84% have some money saved, and the average savings adds up to $1,044, up from $822 in 2006.
- And 63% of teens say they are knowledgeable about money management, including budgeting, saving, and investing.
Now the not-so-good news:
- Many teens are not very realistic when it comes to what they expect to earn per year in adulthood. Boys expect to earn, on average, $173,000, and girls some $114,000.
- What percentage of surveyed teens feel very or somewhat knowledgeable about how credit card interest and fees work? Just 26%. About how to invest money to make it grow? Just 22%. About how income taxes work? Only 14%. What a 401(k) plan is? Try 13%.
- One in four (24%) agrees that "I am young, so saving money isn't that important."
- About 29% of teens have some debt -- the average amount is $300. That same percentage would prefer buying things with a credit card than with cash. That's up 61% over last year's 18% response.
The best news
Despite some seriously worrisome data in the survey, there's also lots of cause for hopefulness:
- Nearly nine in 10 teens (89%) say they want to learn how to make their money grow.
- Two-thirds (65%) think learning about money is "interesting."
- And 60% say that learning about money management is one of their top priorities.
Got that? If you have or know a teenager (or a pre-teen, for that matter), make time to talk regularly about money. Young people have the most to gain from saving and investing -- they can set themselves up for a cushy retirement with minimal sacrifice if they take action while they're still young. After all, a 15-year-old has a whopping 50 years before hitting 65! In 50 years, a single modest $1,000 investment in the stock market will turn into more than $117,000 if it grows at the market's historic average annual rate of 10%. A mere $10,000 investment? Nearly $1.2 million; $25,000? Almost $3 million.
Simply investing in a broad-market index fund, such as one based on the S&P 500, can be sufficient. It will instantly invest teens in 500 of America's biggest companies, including kid favorites such as Disney
If you'd like to make young people you care about more financially savvy, you'd do well to send them to our Teens & Their Money nook. Alternatively, consider giving them a copy of our well-regarded Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens book.
And finally, if financial literacy interests you, check out our last annual charity drive, Foolanthropy, which was sponsored in 2006 by Hilton Hotels
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.