54% of teens feel unprepared to finance their futures, survey shows

A college graduate calls their family on video to celebrate

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Teenagers are looking at the costs of higher education and fear they won’t be able to keep up.

Some 54% of teens say they are worried about financing their futures, according to a survey from Junior Achievement USA and Citizens Bank of 1,000 children aged 13 to 18 between Feb. 18 and 24.

What to do after high school is the biggest stressor around money, the survey found. Nearly 70% of the teens said that rising higher education costs have affected their post-graduation plans.  

“We see that there are so many families that are very underprepared on how to pay for college,” said Mindy Hager, vice president of student lending at Citizens Bank. “The conversations aren’t taking place at home or in high school.”

Still, half of the teens surveyed said that they plan to enroll in a four-year college upon graduating.

How parents can help

Parents can play a big role in helping alleviate teens’ concerns around finances and college, according to Hager.

One of the best things that parents and other guardians can do is talk to their teenagers about how to pay for higher education before any applications are sent out. This ensures everyone in the family is on the same page before teens begin to plan their next chapter.

“We call it the ‘other talk,'” said Hager, adding it can also be an opportunity for families to discuss what options are available for their children to continue their education at a cost that makes sense.

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Many young people today are making different choices to ensure they can afford college — 28% are only considering in-state schools, 22% plan to live at home during college and 10% are weighing a two-year degree versus a four-year degree.

These options may help them take on less student debt. This year’s high school graduates may have an average of $39,500 in student loans, according to a NerdWallet report analyzing data from the National Center for Education statistics.  

“The rule of thumb is to take out no more than what your first-year salary is going to be,” said Hager.

The impact of personal finance education

The survey also found that 41% of students said they didn’t have any financial literacy classes in high school.

This may factor into the financial stress that teens feel when preparing for their futures. Nearly 40% said that having a better understanding of how student loans work would help ease their concerns.