Most 20-Somethings Are Pessimistic About Their Financial Futures

worried young adults
worried young adults

These days, 20-somethings aren't just the young and the restless -- they're the young and the anxious. According to The PNC Financial Services Group's Financial Independence Survey, that demographic is full of financial fears.

The numbers are none too optimistic -- less youthful swagger and more stagger. Only 23% of those in their 20s consider themselves financially independent, just 30% have gotten a job in their chosen field, according to the survey, and 40% rely on two or more sources of income, whether that means multiple jobs or withdrawals from the Bank of Mom and Dad.

Though 26% overall said they feel they are right on target financially, and another 25% felt they are ahead of where they expected to be, nearly half said they aren't where they want to be or where they thought they would be.

They're not so sure about the future either, and the older they get, the less sure they become: 26% of 22- and 23-year-olds said they are optimistic about their financial futures, compared to just 14% of 28- and 29-year-olds. Only 5% of 20 and 21-year-olds said they have "no idea" when they'll be financially independent, if ever, but fully 20% of those ages 28 and 29 gave that response. As for retirement, a mere two out of 10 are confident they'll have enough money to live comfortably when they are ready to stop working.

It's Not As Bad As They Think

Still, Todd Barnhart, a senior vice president at PNC Bank (PNC) told DailyFinance that 20-somethings have more cause for optimism: "You can do it," is his message to them. "While becoming financially independent may be a longer road than anticipated, it is not completely out of reach."

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"As 20-somethings reach their 30s, we see the level of uncertainty about financial independence rise significantly. While I know 30 may seem ancient to Millennials, the truth is, that time is still on their side, so it's important to remember not to panic and to continue planning for the future," says Barnhart.

Patience and persistence will go a long way. "Don't beat yourself up for not meeting your own expectations. Try to think positively about your financial goals," said Barnhart in a prepared statement. He offered these four guidelines for young people.

Develop good habits, liking paying yourself first. "Establish a regular savings program. A 401(k) plan through your employer is a great place to start," said Barnhart.

Forget all those credit card offers.
"Avoid debt traps. Not all debt is bad, but seriously consider interest rates to be sure you don't accumulate high-interest debt that can keep you from using that money to save or invest," said Barnhart.

Keep the numbers straight. Budget and track spending. It's basic, but easy to get lost in the hubris of young adult life. Be consistent in managing your money, how much you spend, how often, where.

Parents have a part to play too.
"Have those difficult conversations about debt, savings and spending with your children and adult children," said Barnhart. "Further, it may be hard, but be as transparent as possible with your children about your own financial mistakes and successes -- nothing will hit as close to home as real world examples."

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