Sharp rise in teenage anxieties about money

British teenagers today are very different from the 'feckless youth' of so much popular mythology. Financial planning is a major concern, says a new report.

Whether it’s buying a first car, budgeting for university or planning for a mortgage, money matters are of increasing interest to British teenagers. And a new survey by the Money Sense Panel indicates attitudes and behaviour are changing and financial awareness improving.

Two thirds of teens surveyed say they are more money savvy than they were 12 months ago. While the number of teens who do not keep track of their money has halved from 20% in 2007 to 10% in 2010.

And where is this learning taking place? Of the 12000 teenagers questioned, over 82% said they learnt about money at home or at school in the last year, and two thirds of them talked to their parents about household finances.

But the report also detects unrealistic financial expectations amongst teenagers. By the age of 35, for instance, today’s teens expect to earn an average of £61,700, compared to the national average of around £24,333 for people in their thirties.

Half of young people expect to buy their first home at 25, when the national average is 31. While nearly 30% thought university debt for those starting in 2009 would be less than £10,000 – when the true figure is £23,200.

‘This year’s results show British teens are taking a real interest in their money,’ says Andrew Cave of RBS Community programmes. ‘But it’s clear there’s a growing gap between young people’s expectations and reality, that’s why its so important that we equip them with the knowledge and skills to make considered financial decisions for their future.’

But the present matters as well. Almost all young people surveyed had received money in the previous month. But there’s less cash around. The average amount received in a month fell from £127 in 2008 to £88 in 2010.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in these times of recession, more young people are saving some of their money. 84% of teenagers believe that saving is important.

A third of girls agreed with the statement ‘money worries me’ compared to 23% of boys. And it was those 16 and over who were more likely to worry.

‘It can help you in the future,’ said Adam, 17, reflecting on financial education in his school. ‘When we’re at university we’re going to have to start budgeting a lot more than we are now.’

Money worries me

‘I don’t want to make money, I just want to be wonderful,’ said Marilyn Monroe.

But with the survey revealing that more young people now worry about money, financial awareness is an increasingly important life skill.

You Decide

  1. 'Never spend your money before you've earned it,' said Thomas Jefferson. Do you think credit cards are irresponsible?
  2. Banks. How can they help you? How can they harm you?


  1. What do you spend your money on? Create a complete list of your weekly/monthly expenditure. What's essential, what's a luxury? What does your list reveal about yourself? What would you cut if you had to?
  2. Are you by nature a saver or spender? Concerned or unconcerned about money? Grasping or giving? Write a short piece about your own attitude towards money. How might it shape your life in the future?

Some People Say...

“Money worries are for adults.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Do all teenagers earn money?
Not at all. Since 2007, the number of young people earning their own money, from part-time jobs or doing chores, has decreased. For 12-15 year olds, the proportion fell from 48% to 41%. For 16 to 19-year-olds the drop is from 59% to 46%.
Everyone wants financial independence, surely?
Yes, 86% of those questioned said that it was important for them to have their own money – while 54% felt that their money always goes too quickly!
And is money linked with happiness?
For some. 46% of young people said they needed more money to be happy. Parental attitudes can be passed on to us, almost without us knowing. 37% of those questioned felt that their parents worried about money and 54% thought their parents watched what they spent money on.


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