Crop, Stock and Ledger

Crop, Stock and Ledger

Youth Saves Movement Coming to Town

Photo of Steve Ayers

Steve Ayers
Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
srayers@illinois.edu

The Economic Awareness Council is spearheading a state-wide effort to increase financial literacy and saving behavior among teens and young adults. This pilot project applies the America Saves model to a youth audience throughout Illinois. This effort will capitalize on existing resources, primarily financial professionals, government agencies, youth organizations, not for profit entities, and schools as well as youth volunteers themselves. This initiative will bridge the gap between financial education and action by using youth volunteers to motivate their peers to save.

Why the focus on youth savings habits? Youth today are spending money, a lot of it! According to a 2003 online Harris Youth Pulse survey of 3432 young people age 8 to 21 years, they spent a whopping $172 billion! The study breaks down spending habits into three categories.

  • Pre-teens, ages 8-12, spend $19.1 billion dollars per year ($946 per child)
  • Teens, ages 13-19, spend $94.7 billion dollars per year ($3309 per child)
  • Young adults, ages 20-21, spend $61.3 billion per year ($7389 per person)

Students are leaving college with more debt than ever, student loan amounts are increasing, tuition keeps rising, and credit cards are being pushed on students on many campuses. The median college education loan debt is nearly $20,000 for full-time students at four year colleges. That figure does not include credit cards. More than half of students surveyed last winter by Sallie Mae had acquired more than $5000 in debt and one third added more than $10,000 in credit card debt. Graduate students surveyed by Nellie Mae had an average credit card debt of $7831. They also reported holding an average of six credit cards. This heavy reliance on credit by young people is beginning to have extremely negative consequences. Young Americans aged 25-34 have the second highest rate of bankruptcy according the research group Demos. In 2006, the average total debt among Americans aged 22-29 rose to $16,120, up $1475 from 2001. In those five years, the average number of late payments increased by one third, according to an analysis of three million financial records by credit reporting company Experian Group.

How can you become involved with Youth Saves?

  • If you are a teen or young adult, volunteer as a motivational workshop leader.
  • If you work with a youth group, schedule a Youth Saves Motivational Workshop or Welcome to the Real World simulation for your group.
  • Volunteer as a Youth Saves wealth coach.
  • Volunteer as a member of the Champaign County Saves steering committee that meets monthly to plan financial education activities.

One of the Youth Saves posters sums things up quite well. It says, "I want to live with my parents for the next 30 years. Spending all your money on cheeseburgers, video games, or another pair of jeans might sound like a good idea today, but tomorrow…not so much. Enroll as a saver at www.youthsaves.org and start saving now to build wealth later. That, or get used to hanging out on your parent's couch … when you're 40." For more information, give me a call at 333-7672 or srayers@illinois.edu.

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