Are the kids alright?
A new survey shows Gen Zs have better money skills than past generations to manage the challenge of post-secondary finances amid high inflation
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Life has become more expensive more quickly than previously experienced in decades.
Everyone is affected, though some more than others, particularly folks whose income is restricted.
Count a lot of post-secondary students in that group.
Inflation has been running as high as eight per cent this year increasing the amount of money they spend on rent, books, clothing, food, drink and pretty much everything else.
At the same time, about half of all Canadian post-secondary students are taking on student loans — based on data from Statistics Canada — to the tune of $28,000 of debt by graduation.
Those figures are likely a little higher today, given the StatsCan datasets are almost seven years old.
Altogether, it’s a lot of financial challenges for the 18- to 24-year-olds — or generation Zs.
Yet a new survey by PC Financial points to this new crop of young adults being more financially literate, and perhaps more prepared to face these challenges than previous generations.
And it seems they may have their parents — who may have not been as prepared as young adults — to thank.
“We found there is a paradigm shift when it comes to parents talking to their children about money,” says Carola Corti, senior vice-president and general manager of payments and deposits at PC Financial.
“The survey results show parents are talking about the importance of budgeting and generally financial knowledge with their children at a much younger age than before.”
To that end, the survey results found that six in 10 gen Zs learned about basic finances before age 16.
That’s up from their parents, generation Xers presumably. Less than one in two of this demographic — ages 42 to 57 — were schooled in money by their parents before they could legally drive on their own.
The earlier focus on financial literacy appears to have raised a more confident crop of new adults with eight in 10 gen Zs confident in their ability to budget.
As well, they feel more capable when it comes to saving with 85 per cent noting they are or plan to do so soon.
The findings are welcome good news, says certified financial planner Jackie Porter with Carte Wealth Management Inc. in Mississauga.
“As parents, these are things to instill in your children at an earlier age to set them up for financial success as adults,” she says.
“The flipside is that children who feel like they didn’t get this advice and, in turn, don’t have those skills are likely to feel very financially vulnerable.”
Even with knowledge, the current economic environment is highly challenging, the survey found.
Despite having the tools, 72 per cent of gen Zs are still worried about their financial future.
And why wouldn’t they be, given so many are taking on debt?
“If you’re on student loans, you’re more conscious of every dollar spent because you have to pay it back eventually,” says Robin Taub, chartered professional accountant and personal finance expert in Toronto.
“Obviously, in the U.S. they have just forgiven student debt, but that’s not happening here, and with interest rates rising, any debt is just going to be more expensive.” Of note, interest charges do not apply to provincial and federal student loans for the time being, even after graduation.
Still, more than one in three took out loans through financial institutions outside of the government program, which generally do charge interest from the moment a dollar is borrowed, according to StatsCan data.
As the author of the 2021 book, The Wisest Investment: Teaching Your Kids to be Responsible, Independent and Money-Smart for Life, Taub is obviously a big proponent of parents helping their children prepare to thrive in the adult world of money management.
“Parents want to start laying the foundation early, teaching what I call the ‘five pillars of money,’” she says. “The first pillar is earning it, and then you have choices of what to do with it.”
That’s where the other pillars come into play; how to spend responsibly, save, invest and donate.
She adds money education should always be age-appropriate with learning about investments coming once the other pillars have been established.
Simply put, though, the sooner parents start, the more likely the kids will be alright.
Consider saving and investing: Both are driven by the power of compounding returns, which is all the more powerful when stretched out over time as long as possible.
For those who don’t know where to start, online resources are plentiful, including PC Financial, which has a blog on a number of money subjects, including budgeting “tips on how to lessen inflation,” Corti says.
The more money knowledge; the better off young adults moving away from home for the first time will be, Taub underscores.
“That way, by the time they get to university living on their own and essentially managing their own household, it’s not their first time having all that responsibility of having to mind their own money.”