Financial Literacy & Data Protection for Young Adults

  • By Bryan Lee
  • Sep 14, 2022

The Importance of Financial Literacy

Financial literacy is the combination of knowledge and skills that people need to make well-informed financial decisions. These decisions range from budgeting for a vacation to crafting a long-term retirement plan.

It requires a lot of time to build a solid foundation, and many young adults struggle with money management. Less than 20 percent of 15-year-olds in America can apply basic skills like reading an invoice or comparison shopping.

These lacking areas worsen as these young adults become fully self-dependent. They stumble through novel money problems and must make choices with little understanding of the future consequences. So, to combat these trends, financial literacy education must begin early and accompany traditional learning systems.

The Importance of Financial Literacy

There are many interpretations of the "starting line" of adulthood. However, this term roughly applies to the period in which a person assumes the bulk of responsibility for themself. One of the most apparent indicators of this shift is handling personal finances.

Young adults are at high risk in this stage. They become overwhelmed by new costs like insurance, rent, or student debt payments. This leads to an over-reliance on credit-based spending without the means to consistently pay it off. Interest fees pile up and put young adults in financial pits they spend decades climbing out of.

In 2020, Americans aged 18 to 23 (Gen Z) held an average debt of just over $16,000. This number sharply increases in each subsequent age group and only starts declining after age 55. Of course, this is partly due to economic problems and milestone purchases like houses.

However, more than three decades of increasing debt means poor decisions are the norm on average. Financial literacy in early adulthood helps young adults make intelligent decisions like systematically paying off debt and avoiding premature purchases that would increase their debt.

Financial Literacy for Kids

Financial Literacy for Kids

Apart from introductory economics courses in school, most financial knowledge we acquire as children comes from socialization. We listen to our parents griping about the mortgage or how much a vacation will cost. We even subconsciously learn how much it costs to eat at certain restaurants.

While this "watch and learn" approach does teach valuable information, it's far too general to be called proper education. Children must interact directly with money and build good habits as early as possible.

A study from Cambridge University found that many adult money habits are determined by the age of seven. Parents have a lot of power to point their children in the right direction. Suitable tools that parents can use to teach their children include:

  • Bank Accounts: Opening a children's bank account will teach saving strategies and interest.
  • Allowances: Have children participate in paying for non-essentials to display good spending habits.
  • Stocks and Bonds: Understanding concepts like market volatility and long-term thinking is helpful.

Financial Literacy for College Students

It's become clear that many young adults today didn't get a good financial education when they were young. Financial literacy encompasses earning potential, debt management, tax planning, and responsible saving. Americans are critically underperforming in these aspects, with the biggest offenders being young adults.

There's a growing disparity between financially literate and illiterate people. A higher literacy score is a strong indicator of success. It translates directly to increased savings, flexibility, and a more secure retirement plan.

College is the last checkpoint before full adulthood. In other words, it's the last chance for many people to improve their financial literacy before making big decisions. Many things have changed in the past generation that students need to plan around. 

Student Loans

Student loans are a dark cloud hanging over millions of college students. Unfortunately, this hammer will drop as soon as the graduation cap drops.

Roughly 45 million graduates have left college with debt. These graduates also owe more on average than in the past. This should play a large part in decisions while still in school. Will your future career earn enough to justify this debt? How long will it take to pay it off?

Consider how increased student debt will influence your future quality of life, and start making changes now to ease the transition.

Retirement

Retirement was the sweet reward guaranteed at the end of a life of hard work. However, the social security fund is estimated to operate normally until 2037.

This projection puts more pressure on young adults to save for their retirement. It's little wonder that less than 60 percent of Americans are saving for it. This situation becomes even more difficult due to income rates remaining relatively unchanged for decades.

Income and Cost of Living

Inflation is deceptive. College graduates aren't making more money despite income numbers seemingly climbing annually. In fact, the average worker is worse off now since inflation is outpacing income growth. This should be a key point when considering starting salaries after graduation and negotiating future pay raises.

Digital Finance and Staying Safe Online

Like everything else, most financial activity happens over the internet. Over half of all bills in America were paid online in 2016.

It’s also becoming easier to process bank activity and online billing through mobile devices. This means more people are logging into financial accounts from potentially unsafe networks. Public Wi-Fi allows even low-level hackers to read all the information a device sends to the server. This information includes usernames, passwords, and payment information.

It's best to install a virtual private network (VPN) on mobile devices. This keeps users safe by encrypting any data sent to servers and preventing hackers from reading it.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Payment Methods

There was a time when online transactions came with a touch of skepticism. However, those who grew up in the digital age have a higher degree of trust in online payment methods. They even allow mobile applications to connect directly to their bank accounts. This method is known as peer-to-peer payments and is used by popular fund-sharing platforms like Venmo and CashApp.

The dangerous thing about P2P transactions is that they're instantaneous. Sending money this way is like putting cash directly in the recipient's hand. The platform doesn't hold the funds at any time, so refunds aren't possible for scammed victims. This makes P2P inherently less secure than credit card transactions that delay sending money.

The rising comfort with online billing and payments provides cybercriminals with many new avenues for cyber attack. However, most dangers are avoidable with just a bit of awareness. Check out this resource for a more in-depth guide on how to stay safe online.

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