I'm just back from a trip to five East Coast universities with my colleague Roma Luciw, the Globe's personal finance editor. We talked with students about money – how to minimize debt, budget, save, invest and avoid fees as much as possible. It's the fourth year we've done these sessions, and we now have a pretty good idea of the financial literacy level of Canadian college and university students. Here are some observations:
1.) Students do think about money: They're not oblivious to the need to be smart about their finances, but they lack the knowledge and resources to make good decisions.
2.) Social pressures are an issue: You can get sucked into spending more than you wanted by going out with friends.
3.) Millennials are loyal customers of the big banks: We were surprised how few knew about online banks PC Financial and Tangerine.
4.) They're keenly interested in their credit ratings: Yet they have a sketchy at best understanding of how credit scores work.
5.) Credit cards are rampant on campus: They're easy to get and helpful in today's increasingly cashless society, but we need to reinforce the idea of paying in full every month and not carrying a balance.
6.) Many have drank the housing market Kool-Aid: In every group we spoke to, there were millennials who were keen to buy a house as soon as possible because they either see homes as an investment or are afraid they'll be priced out of the market.
7.) Investing is about stockpicking: Too many young people think investing is about hitting home runs by picking the right stocks.
As a resource for young adults, we created the Globe and Mail Gen Y Money website. It's a hub for personal finance and investing information targeted at young adults. It's got nifty calculators, videos, links, you name it. We also run a Gen Y money Facebook page, where young people can ask and answer questions about personal finance.
Here are some pictures from our session with students at Dalhousie University's Rowe School of Business. We get financial support for our FinLit on-campus events from the non-profit Canadian Federation of Economic Education.
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