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Money: Online, It’s a Topic to Avoid

Young people keep mum on the Internet.

Young people fret more about finances than anything else, but that’s the topic they’re least likely to discuss on social networking websites, according to a survey released Tuesday by AARP.

“Money issues, especially keeping up with routine bills and carrying debt, are far and away the thing that young people worry about most in life,” says the study, titled “Personal Finances: the Final Frontier of Social Media.”

“Given these money-related worries and stresses, it is surprising to learn that finances are the least talked about or shared information online by young adults, even in this era of extensive social networking,” the survey says.

Among young people responding to the poll:

  • 57 percent said their chief worry was money and finances, and another 18 percent said it was jobs, unemployment and career issues. The next biggest worries were health and relationships, at 10 percent each.

 

  • 68 percent said money worries have caused stress in a relationship, with 40 percent saying a partner overspends and 30 percent saying a partner has too much debt.

 

  • Even though 51 percent said they posted information on social sites at least several times a week, only 9 percent said they shared financial information or sought financial advice through social media. That was lower than any of the other 12 topics the survey asked young people about—including their sex lives.

 

The survey of more than 1,000 young people age 18 to 34 was conducted Aug. 29 to Sept. 10 by the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. It is being released as AARP launches a website called LifeTuner, which is aimed at explaining finances to young people grappling with money issues for the first time.

“I was amazed at the extent to which young people do not talk about their finances in this age of social networking,” says Diane Ty, an AARP senior vice president who oversaw development of the LifeTuner site. “They’re sharing everything else online about their lives.”

But the survey results did not surprise Martha Vaughn, a 34-year-old office manager in Atlanta who has been an early user of the new site.

“There’s information on social networks that is considered acceptable to talk about, and there’s information that is considered nonacceptable,” she says. “People feel a lack of security when they talk about their personal finances. You want all your friends to think you are good, you’re happy. You don’t want them to know how bad things are.”

The survey found that most young people (60 percent) go to their parents for financial advice, followed by their friends (31 percent). Fewer than two in 10 say the Internet is one of the top two places they go, and those who do go online scatter to a wide variety of sites in search of reliable financial information. Nearly a third try search engines, followed by news sites (20 percent) and their bank’s website (19 percent).

“There is a lot of ignorance out there,” Vaughn says. “You graduated from high school and just about everyone got a (credit) card. Nobody told you how to use it or what credit was. Everyone blew all that money and then had to pay the consequences.” The result for many people, she says, is that “you get hit with huge interest rates, you pay the minimum, never pay the card off, and then 10 years later you’re still paying on the same $500 you spent on real stupid stuff when you were 18 years old.”

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