Wise beyond their years? Young workers proclaim financial savvy


Today’s guest post is from EBN Managing Editor Andrea Davis, who wonders whether new survey results showing high financial know-how among 20-somethings is born of youthful hubris or true knowledge. Enjoy, and share your thoughts in the comments. —Kelley M. Butler 
A new survey suggests workers under the age of 25 are significantly more confident than others that they are on track for a comfortable retirement. Eighty-two percent of those under 25 are “somewhat” or “very” confident they’re on track to have enough saved to be able to pay for the lifestyle they want in retirement, compared to 63% of the general population, according to State Street Global Advisors’ most recent DC investor survey.
The youngest workers also indicated greater-than-average faith in their financial knowledge: The percentage of employees age 25 and under who reported that they’re extremely knowledgeable about financial matters was nearly double that of the general population.
While it might be easy to chalk it up to youthful arrogance, could it be that this younger generation has absorbed some of the financial lessons we need them to learn?
Fredrik Axsater, global head of SSgA’s defined contribution team, seems to think so, maintaining that this optimistic attitude among young workers could be one of the benefits to come out of the financial crisis. “They have higher unemployment [and] they may have seen some of the negative implications of the financial crisis on their parents and they realize that having a secure retirement is really important,” he says, adding that this is the second survey SSgA’s conducted that has shown similar results among younger employees. “They want to thrive in retirement, not just survive.”
Still, I wonder if these same participants will be so optimistic 20 years from now when they’ve got a mortgage, car payment, 2.1 kids, credit card debt, an ex-spouse or two, aging parents and are still paying off their student loan debt.
Interestingly, the survey also reveals that these young investors have somewhat higher cash-out rates (27%) than the general population (11%), leading its authors to caution “plan sponsor should be somewhat skeptical about this group’s self-assuredness.”
What do you think? Are today’s young workers overly cocky when it comes to retirement planning and saving? Or do they have a better grip on financial matters than we give them credit for? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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