Approximately 80% of young adults finish high school, and 63% go onto to pursue a secondary degree immediately after (Source: American Council on Education), and a vast majority will enter the work force in their first full time job. As a result, we can broadly understand young adulthood as three phases: high school, going to college (or trade school), and starting work.
In a survey of 18,901 members, Callahan's Internet Strategy Consortium (ISC) asked students and adults to rank a list of topics relating to financial education. Following are the top four topics for the 14 to 18 age group:
- Understanding cost of living
- Pitfalls of credit cards
- Balancing a checkbook
- Financing College
Many credit unions have been effective at addressing the topics of interest relating to this age group through high school outreach program, designed to reach both students and parents. For example, Eli Lilly FCU invites parents of local high school students to their presentations about college financing. Tricia Poplicean, Student Lending Advisor for Eli Lilly FCU, uses this time to establish herself and credit union as a trusted source for financial information. She is able to convert many of these relationships into student loans, when appropriate for the member.
Below is a short clip of a presentation, as well as a portion of the Q&A session with the parents in attendance.
Obviously, many of these topics can be effectively combined. Tricia touches on several relevant topics during her presentations, including credit cards: "The only thing I don't recommend, and you'll see this at some of these presentations: credit cards. Don't put your college education on credit cards. I will always leave that out of mine." For more information, please refer to Cards on Campus, Part 1 and Part 2.
College / Entering the Workforce
After leaving high school, the likely path is to head off to college, earn a degree, and find a job, which translated to a new set of financial needs and interests. The same ISC survey presented the same list of potential topics for young adults ages 19 to 25:
- Pitfalls of credit cards
- How to build credit
- Investing and growing savings
- Importance of investing
The topics of interest for these adults can be collectively understood as building wealth. The "investing and growing savings" and "importance of investing" would help grow wealth, while "pitfalls of credit cards" and "how to build credit" relate to protecting wealth. According to the ISC survey, by the time a young adult reaches 22, fees are a larger influence over savings account selection than parents. Credit unions must recognize that wealth protection and fee avoidance is going to be particularly important for this generation recent grads. Here's why.
With unemployment reaching 9.1% in May, and with projections for 10% unemployment through 2010, employment opportunities seem few and far between. For recent graduates, the picture looks even bleaker. On average, firms have cut college hiring 22% from last year. The result is a sharp decline in the percentage of students who have jobs lined up for after graduation, from 51% for the class of 2007 to 19.7% in 2009. (Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers)
Further, recent college grads will be the last to enter the employment picture, once their more experienced predecessors have already found work. This ripple effect will continue to influence future grads. Add on top of this the pressure of looming college debt. The result, for several years after graduation, young adults will have to rely on cutting costs rather than earning a higher salary in order to accumulate wealth.