Where do you get your financial advice, and does the source change with your age?
Apparently it does.
A new report from CreditCards.com found that Generation Z — or those ages 18 to 24 or born after 1996 — were nearly five times as likely (28%) as adults ages 41 and over (6%) to say they got financial counsel from social media.
Twenty-two percent of Gen Zers said they got no financial advice at all. That compares with 23% of millennials (born between 1981 and 1996 or 25-40 years old, according to the Pew Research Center guidelines for generations), 36% of Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980 or 41-56 years old) and 39% of baby boomers (or those born between 1946 and 1964 or 57-75 years old). The study did not seem to have any members of the silent generation, or those born in 1928 to 1945 or 76 to 93 years old.
Where people get financial advice
Here are some other interesting stats from the study:
- U.S. adults overall also sought financial advice from other sources: A quarter (25%) turned to financial websites. Nearly a quarter (24%) went to financial advisers, and the same percentage took advice from financial institutions. Significantly fewer turned to social media platforms or influencers (14%); newspapers or magazines (14%); books (13%); radio, TV or podcasts (13%); or somewhere else (2%).
- When all survey participants were asked who had taught them the most about how to manage money, the most common answer was “myself” (43%), followed by mother (19%) and father (17%).
- Many respondents said they get financial advice from financial websites, including 25% of Gen Zers, 30% of millennials, 27% of Gen Xers and 19% of baby boomers.
- The poll showed that of those who get advice from friends and family, Gen Zers lead the way at 53%, while millennials come in at 44%, Gen Xers at 37% and boomers at 25%.
“Over the past year with people being at home, having extra free time and looking for extra things to do, a lot of people have become really interested in personal finance or investing, maybe because of their stimulus check or what they saw on Reddit or Twitter about hot investments like GameStop,” Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com and Bankrate, told me in a recent telephone interview.
“The silver lining is there’s more awareness of these issues. I would come more from the index school fund of investing [buying stocks based on a market index] than the bet-it-all on GameStop school of thought of investing,” but it all depends on your risk tolerance, said Rossman. He was referring to a group of investors via social media who took on short sellers, who are mostly hedge fund managers and big-time investors.
Rossman said not all advice on social media is bad, but it could be risky. And it shouldn’t be the sole source of financial advice.
“At the end of the day, the biggest thing is you have to take ownership of your own finances,” he said.
And Rossman said that’s why it’s important to blend a variety of outside perspectives with your own experiences and goals.
“I don’t think any of these mediums have inherently good or bad financial advice — it’s more about what you do with it,” Rossman said.
But these survey results illustrate the poor state of financial literacy in America, he said.
With little formal personal finance education, most people are forced to go it alone. But your financial decisions have a major impact on your quality of life. Rossman questioned how safe it is to entrust that responsibility to your family and friends.
“They may be good people, but there’s a good chance they don’t know much about managing money,” Rossman said.
Rossman said that although there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to Americans’ financial literacy, he’s encouraged that people are having these conversations.
Money can be a taboo topic, so it’s a step in the right direction that a lot of people are discussing it and seeking out information on their own, he said.
The school of hard knocks is a tough teacher, Rossman warned, and it’s better to educate yourself before you run into financial difficulty.
You don’t necessarily need a financial adviser, but if you didn’t learn much about money in school or at home, you need to take it upon yourself to further your financial education, he recommended.
“I am pleased that social media rated as the least trustworthy source of financial advice, because there are a lot of kooky financial tips on there,” Rossman said.
Rossman said he also likes the idea of young people trying to take some savings and looking for short-term goals to make that money grow in a safe investment.
For Gen Z and millennials, “this could have been the third-largest financial shock they live through. The oldest went through 9/11, the second was the big financial crisis of 2007 to 2009 and now COVID,” Rossman said.
“That has left an impact on especially older millennials. Even if they don’t remember all details, they saw things their parents were going through. Rather than being scared by all of these things, it’s just good to do what you can,” he said.
Financial tips for younger generations
Here are some tips from Rossman and Bankrate.com for all ages, but they can be especially helpful for the younger generations:
- Start an emergency fund, even a small one. Start with something. A first goal could be $500 to $1,000. Ultimately, you should have three to six months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund, and it will vary depending upon your expenses. Take a stimulus payment or graduation or birthday money and put some away.
- Build your financial game plan: “People don’t like to use the word budget because it feels like it’s limiting. Live on less than you make, whether you call that a budget or call that something else — that’s another fundamental — if you can do that, you’re moving in the right direction,” Rossman said.
If your job has a 401(k) match, take advantage of it. “Even putting a little bit into that 401(k) employer match, it starts to get you accustomed to a habit.
If you have student loan debt, credit card debt and no emergency fund, what should you do?
Rossman said student loan debt would be his lowest priority now, especially with the suspension of federal loan repayments through September and other federal discussions about student loans. Use that money to start an emergency fund or pay down credit card debt, which can average 16% and really add up.
“In normal times, I’d say pay the minimum [on student loans], but in this situation, if somebody did have an emergency fund and didn’t have credit card debt, I’d try to get ahead on the credit card debt,” said Rossman. Or maybe split credit card debt and emergency savings, he said. He said he’d almost be tempted to pay off the high credit card debt, but “the risk is if you don’t have any savings, what happens if you really do have some type of emergency? Clearly $1,000 isn’t going to fix every emergency, but maybe it’ll help with a high health plan deductible or car repairs. If you don’t have the cash on hand as your option, then you’ll use credit.”
For more advice, Rossman pointed to a Bankrate.com New Year’s Resolution post that can be found at: bankrate.com/banking/top-financial-new-years-resolutions/.
Beacon Journal staff reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected] Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ. To see her most recent stories and columns, go to www.tinyurl.com/bettylinfisher.