The deluded generation: Teens clueless about own abilities, finances, prospects

Robby Soave Reporter
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Today’s teenagers are in desperate need of a wake-up call, a new survey found.

In its latest report, Junior Achievement — an organization that has tracked teens’ attitudes for the last 14 years — found that kids are woefully uninformed about aspects of their financial futures, including the cost of college. And despite less-than-stellar post-college employment odds, their self-confidence remains sky-high.

Jack Kosakowski, CEO of Junior Achievement America, highlighted teenagers’ inattention to financial reality as the survey’s major finding. About half of all teenagers don’t know whether they will need to take out student loans to pay for college, for example.

“My personal big take away at looking at the numbers is a lack of understanding of the cost of college,” said Kosakowski in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

In this year’s survey, more teenagers said they planned to be financially independent — around the time they turn 26. Fewer teenagers said they would be able to support themselves between the ages of 18 and 24.

And while 52 percent of surveyed teens said their peers borrow too much money to go to college, just 9 percent of them said that they themselves are saving money for the future.

For the record, the average college student graduates with $25,000 worth of loan debt in order to get a degree that may not even translate into steady employment.

Kosakowski stressed that parents and teachers need to do a better job of talking to kids about basic financial principles.

“There’s clearly a lot of blame that can go around,” he said. “Our research continues to show us that young people look to their parents as the first providers of that information about how you manage your money. Year after year, we’re seeing that parents aren’t providing it.”

Teenagers’ delusional views about their own abilities may be somewhat to blame for their bad budgeting. Numerous studies have found that today’s average young person thinks he possesses above-average intelligence.

Despite feeling smarter than their parents’ generation, today’s students self-reportedly study for fewer hours. On the bright side, they get better grades because of grade inflation.

“A third of high school students graduate with an A average, even though standardized test performance is unchanged or down and students actually study for fewer hours than they once did,” wrote Julia Twenge, a psychologist and author of the book Generation Me, in a previous statement to The DC News Foundation. “Students are getting better grades for less work, which is probably one reason why they feel so confident.”

The trend of self-delusion among teenagers is a particularly American problem, Kosakowski noted.

“The only things our kids rank the highest in are confidence in their abilities,” he said. “Math, science, and everything else has gone down.”

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Robby Soave