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Personal Finances: The Final Frontier for Social Media: Results of a National Survey of Young Adults

Money issues, especially keeping up with routine bills and carrying debt, are the thing that young people worry about most in life.  Sadly, these financial problems often leak into their social lives, contributing to stress in relationships with friends and partners.  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.

AARP conducted a study on young people, social media, and finances to support development of the LifeTuner website: a new expert-backed site sponsored by AARP that aims to provide a simple roadmap to help young Americans achieve financial security.

For a generation so tech-savvy and clearly comfortable with the interconnectedness of social media, results indicate that financial issues are still a taboo subject for young people connecting online.  Young people are slightly more likely to say they have disclosed their weight or mental health status through social media than to acknowledge sharing financial information online.  The few who have posted financial content usually post information such as identifying recent purchases rather than deeper or larger questions about their financial lives. 

Key Findings include:

  • The Number One thing young people worry about is money and finances (57 percent), along with jobs, unemployment, and career issues (18 percent).  These concerns trump all other issues including health (10 percent), relationships (10 percent), and education (8 percent).

  • The vast majority of young people say financial issues have caused stress in a relationship (68 percent), including situations where a partner overspends (40 percent), borrows money (25 percent), or carries considerable amounts of debt (30 percent).

  • Nearly all young adults carry some amount of debt (78 percent) and generally see their debt load increase as they grow into their thirties.  Significant proportions of young people are racking up credit card debt (36 percent), car loans (30 percent), and unpaid medical bills (23 percent).

  • Young people are posting a lot of personal information, but only 1 in 10 young people say they share “financial information” or seek financial advice through social media.

  • Young people primarily look to their parents (60 percent) and friends (31 percent) for financial advice – not the Internet.  Only 19 percent say the Internet is one of the top two places they go first for financial advice. 

  • When young people do turn to social media for financial advice and information, the vast majority (85 percent) say that this information makes them more confident about managing their finances.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research designed and administered the multi-modal (RDD, cell and web) survey with 1,002 adults aged 18-34.  The survey was conducted August 29 – September 10, 2009.  For more information, contact Jean Koppen at 202-434-6311. (50 pages)

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