Recession Scared Students Into Managing Their Money

US News

Today's college students were still in their teens during the Great Recession, but the experience hit them hard. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, because they appear to have emerged from it more committed to staying on top of their money.

A new survey from Citigroup Inc. and Seventeen magazine found that money is at the top of young people's list of concerns, even trumping making friends and planning for life after college. Most college students (four out of five) work while they go to school, with the average student putting in an impressive 19 hours a week.

About six in 10 students maintain a budget to track expenses, and most students also track their credit card bills. "After seeing their parents' discretionary income decline - and in some cases, seeing family members who have lost jobs - this generation is thinking differently about the way they spend and save, and seem to be taking a more proactive role in funding and managing the costs of college," says Linda Descano, president and chief executive of Citi's Women & Co.

[Read: 6 Best Money Tips for Young People.]

The survey also found that students are looking for creative ways to cut costs. The vast majority (94 percent) will buy used books, almost nine in 10 will go grocery shopping instead of eating out and three in four will walk or bike instead of drive. "All this really illustrates the emergence of a new culture on campus, made up of college students who came of age during the Great Recession, and who are stepping up to funding many of the costs of college life," Descano says.

Descano says the earlier children learn how to manage money, the better, and that many of today's students seem to be preparing themselves well for their futures of money management. "This generation also has the advantage of digital tools that can help them keep tabs on their money on the go, and our study shows that they're adopting many forms of mobile banking technology at a rate that's two to three times higher than the general population of smartphone users," she says.

[See: 20 Things You Should Never Buy Used]

Indeed, six in 10 students said they manage their money online and four in 10 use a mobile device to manage accounts. "I wouldn't be surprised if these kind of digital tools led to better money management skills, since they encourage kids to interact with their money on a more regular basis and allow them to do so on their own terms," Descano says.

Citi and Seventeen magazine also found the following:

--Students, and not their parents, are responsible for many of their own costs: 80 percent of students say they're responsible for their own spending money, 71 percent are responsible for their own clothing expenses and 59 percent are responsible for their own transportation to and from school.

--College freshmen spend a whopping $678 on average to prepare for the school year.

--Most students (61 percent) say college is more expensive than they thought it would be.

--Six in 10 students say they plan to return to school for more degrees after graduating from college.

--The vast majority (94 percent) of students are convinced that college will turn out to be a good investment.

[See: 10 Back-to-School Deals.]



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