The 30s crowd, not 20s, more digitally savvy about finances

Apple iPadWells Fargo recently surveyed 1,000 online banking customers and discovered that it's the 30-somethings who are more likely to use an online bank Web site, mobile banking and other Internet-related tools to manage their finances.

The 30-something folks are also using social networking, advanced photo and film technologies, and career networking sites more often than other respondents.
With a lot of surveys showing how tech-savvy the younger generation is, it may seem surprising that it was not those from Gen Y but Gen Xers who are actually more hip to the use of online tools to manage their money.

But when you think about it, the results make a lot of sense. The way I see it, a 35-year-old probably has a lot more money to manage than a 25-year-old, so why wouldn't he or she want to use every tool in their disposal to manage it?

A 37-year-old probably has more contacts than the average 22-year-old to manage as well, so the fact that they're using social networking for career and social purposes more than their younger counterparts doesn't really surprise me either. And if you're in your 30s, you may be using photo and film technologies more often than someone in their 20s because you have kids to film -- in your 20's, these days, that's less likely.

And where, as a group, do people over age 39 place as a digital user? Having just turned 40 this year, I was curious about where I might stand on the tech-savvy ladder. So I asked a Beverly Butler, vice-president of communications for the Wells Fargo Internet Services Group, if those of us in our 40s are suddenly not as up on things as the 30-somethings?

She was diplomatic, saying that "43% of 30- to 39-year-olds use an online photo sharing tool and 45% record their own digital videos. Then it drops off, with 28% of 40- to 49-year-olds using an online photo sharing tool, and 36% recording their own digital videos."

Forty-somethings, Butler concluded, "aren't as digitally savvy or active as those 30-somethings." But she added, as if to make me feel better about my recent birthday, "Forty-somethings definitely matter."

Wells Fargo came to its conclusions by having banking customers measure their "digital age" by describing how they use digital technology. If you're a "digital novice," the survey found, then you have a general understanding of online tools but not much else. If you're a "digital adult," you're extremely advanced when it comes to technological know-how. And if you're a "digital teen," you're somewhere in between.

I was rather mortified to score a 21, which, I'm told, makes me a "digital teen." I guess if I used mobile banking a little more or did more texting, I might have had a shot at digital adulthood.

If you'd like to take the survey yourself and get a feel for your digital age, you can take the Wells Fargo quiz. It takes just a few minutes, and it's kind of interesting to get a sense of how on top of things (or not) you are in the digital world.

Geoff Williams frequently writes about banking issues for WalletPop.He is also the co-author of the new book Living Well with Bad Credit.
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