Survey: Millennial and Gen Z Women Must Build Financial Literacy

National
Posted By Terri Williams on August 26, 2016 at 10:35 am
Survey: Millennial and Gen Z Women Must Build Financial Literacy

While the country continues in economic recovery mode, young adults have experienced and continue to feel the effects of the recession more than other generations. As for young women, recent research reveals that the gender wage-inequality gap continues to grow. And now it seems millennial and Generation Z women tend to have lower levels of financial literacy than other generations.

survey by 1,000 Dreams Fund and CreditCards.com reveals the following troubling statistics about the state of millennial and Generation Z (those born after 1995) women and their financial literacy:

Credit Card Debt
26% have between $1,001 and $5,000 in credit card debt
13% have between $5,001 and $10,000 in credit card debt
61% worry occasionally about credit card debt
42% worry frequently about credit card debt
34% don’t know how much credit card debt they have

 

Student Loan Debt
22% owe between $25,001 and $50,000 in student loan debt
12% owe more than $50,000 in student loan debt
40% don’t know the total amount of their student loan debt
94% are concerned about their ability to pay student loan debt

 

Daily Expenses
32% always worry about not having enough money for daily expenses
21% frequently worry about not having enough money for daily expenses
24% occasionally worry about not having enough money for daily expenses

 

GoodCall spoke with several financial experts about the survey’s results.

Troubling findings from the survey

Christie Garton, founder of the 1,000 Dreams Fund, says the goal of her organization is to give talented young women a financial boost toward their career goals and dreams. “The headline on this survey – that 34% of respondents aren’t aware how much credit card debt they have while 40% are unaware of their current student loan debt – is eye-opening and should be concerning to anyone who cares about the future of these young women,” Garton says. As a result, the organization wants to ensure that the information is disseminated so other young women can understand the importance of being informed regarding their finances.

The survey results are deeply troubling to Garton. “What surprised me most was the percentage of respondents who are already worried about their ability to pay college debt back or do not have enough money to feed themselves – how are we OK with that?”

In fact, Garton says the survey should be a wake-up call to everyone – colleges, government leaders, and taxpayers. “We cannot ignore these warning signals: Current students and college grads are in need of relief and the government-backed repayment programs being implemented currently are only one piece of the puzzle and we have to address the exploding costs of higher ed.”

Scholarship programs such as the 1,000 Dreams Fund can help. However, according to Garton, much scholarship money – she puts the number at nearly $3 billion – is never claimed, and she says women need to do their homework to locate sources of free money. “Also, they must educate themselves regarding their finances so they don’t find themselves stuck under a pile of debt they can’t handle.”

Taking charge of personal financial literacy

Sienna Kossman, an analyst for CreditCards.com, tells GoodCall that there are three important things women (of any age) can do to improve their financial literacy and start taking charge of their finances and credit:

  • Reduce your spending. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. The more often you pull out a card to pay, the more likely you will be to accumulate debt.
  • Check your credit report and score. It’s an easy way to keep an eye on your overall debt burden and be consistently aware of how much you owe what lender. Plus, you’ll get a heads-up on any mistakes in the report. You can get one free copy of your report from each of the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) for free each year at annualcreditreport.com. You can also view your credit score at my.creditcards.com. Knowing your credit score will help you better understand the negative implications of any debt you carry and how you can better manage your finances/credit to bump up your score in the near future.
  • Review your budget. If you are carrying a debt burden, examine every aspect of your budget to find out how you can best balance debt payments with necessary living expenses. Even if you are debt-free, doing this will remind you how much you should be spending each week or month. Knowing your expenses compared with your income will help you live within your means and not have to rely on credit cards to float day-to-day living expenses.

Part of financial literacy is looking to the future. Young women also need to formulate a plan for paying down their debt. Tiffany Welka, vice president of VFG Associates in Livonia, MI, warns against lumping loans together; she says they should be separated so women can understand the various types, interest rates, etc. Welka recommends paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first and always trying to pay more than the minimum due.

“If you plan on paying back your loans in one year, there are credit cards that offer a 0% interest rate for one year; you could pay the loans on the credit card, and pay the credit card company back before the year is up,” Welka says.

She cautions young women against becoming discouraged. “An important part of being successful financially is to create goals and paths with specific time frames that will allow you to reach them, and having faith and confidence in yourself is the beginning of a successful financial plan.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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