Facts & Resources

For Many Young Adults in Charlotte, Financial Independence Is Still out of Reach

Bank of America/USA TODAY Better Money Habits Report Shows Economic Issues Top Young Voter Concerns

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 11:23 am EDT


"What this study confirms for us is that there is still a need for financial tools and resources that are easy to access and understand, such as those available through, to help them continue to build their skills and knowledge."

A newly released Bank of America/USA TODAY Better Money Habits® Report finds that for more than half (54 percent) of 18- to 26-year-olds in the Charlotte area, 18 is no longer the mark of adulthood. When asked to define adulthood, this age group, which includes the youngest millennials as well as the oldest members of Generation Z, responded with “financial independence” as the top answer. Additionally:

  • Thirty-eight percent define adulthood as having achieved a financial milestone, such as buying a house or car, compared to having achieved traditional life milestones, such as starting a family (8 percent) or graduating from high school/college (4 percent).

  • For those who feel like adults, most (60 percent) say it’s because they taught themselves what they needed to know.

  • For those who do not feel like adults, 77 percent say it is because they still rely on their parents.

Financial independence and, thus, adulthood, may seem out of reach because many still rely on their parents for support: 43 percent still live at home with their parents, and only 43 percent pay their own cell phone bills. The good news is that 59 percent say they are saving, even with 37 percent saddled with student debt. And, in general, they are feeling upbeat about the future. Nearly four in five are optimistic about their financial prospect.

“It’s great to see that young adults here in Charlotte feel hopeful about their financial future,” said Andrew Plepler, Environmental, Social and Governance executive, Bank of America. “What this study confirms for us is that there is still a need for financial tools and resources that are easy to access and understand, such as those available through, to help them continue to build their skills and knowledge.”

Nearly all wish they had learned more about personal finance in school

While striving for financial independence, the majority of young adults in Charlotte say they did not learn enough about practical money matters in school, and while their education has set them up for success in other ways, they are not necessarily feeling “life ready” upon graduating. Only 36 percent said their high school education did a good job teaching them strong financial habits.

A lack of practical knowledge has left many feeling less than prepared for the road ahead. Of those who attended or are attending college, 26 percent had doubts about whether it prepared or is preparing them for the “real world.”

When asked what they wish they had learned more about in school, nearly all said topics related to personal finance, more so than any other life-readiness skill:

  • Forty-one percent wish they had learned how to invest.

  • Thirty-eight percent wish they had learned how to do taxes.

  • Twenty-nine percent wish they had learned how to not spend more than you make.

The need for additional support and resources is what inspired Bank of America to partner with Khan Academy to create Better Money Habits, a free educational resource aimed at empowering people to be more confident in their financial decision-making. The site delivers easy-to-understand information on a wide range of personal finance topics, including retirement, taxes, and buying a home.

Young voters prioritize economic issues in presidential election

With the campaigns in the home stretch, the report also surveyed young, first- and second-time voters in Charlotte and around the country. Contrary to the common narrative that young adults are overly idealistic, young adults in Charlotte are taking a very pragmatic approach to the election: 62 percent say that economic issues are more important to them than social issues (38 percent) when voting.

Three-quarters say their personal financial situation is important in determining the way they vote and, among those with student debt, 46 percent say it will impact the way they vote.

While concerned about their pocketbooks, if forced to choose between two candidates – one who is best for their personal finances and one who is best for the country – the majority (76 percent) would prioritize what’s best for the country.

About the Bank of America/USA TODAY Better Money Habits Report
Bank of America and USA TODAY commissioned a survey of 2,180 18- to 26-year-olds to explore their views on personal financial matters. The survey was conducted online, in both English and Spanish, during the period of July 1–July 21, 2016. Interviews were conducted by GfK Public Communications and Social Science, using GfK’s KnowledgePanel®, a statistically representative sample source used to yield results that are projectable to the American population. To qualify, respondents had to be 18 to 26 years old. The margin of sampling error for national data is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Margin of error for the state of Ohio and the Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Detroit, Mich.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Wilmington, Del.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Seattle-Tacoma, Wash.; San Francisco, Calif.; Boston, Mass.; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. DMA augments are higher than that of the national sample.

About Better Money Habits®
Bank of America has made a substantial commitment to address the need for better financial education by partnering with Khan Academy – a nonprofit with the mission of providing a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere. Together, we’ve developed Better Money Habits®, a free, objective online financial resource that pairs Khan Academy’s expertise in online learning with the financial know-how of Bank of America. Better Money Habits® delivers simple, easy-to-understand information on a wide range of personal finance topics, including saving, budgeting, building credit, paying down debt, paying for college and buying a house.

About Bank of America Environmental, Social and Governance
At Bank of America, our focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors is critical to fulfilling our purpose of helping make people’s financial lives better. Our commitment to growing our business responsibly is embedded in every aspect of our company. It is demonstrated in the inclusive and supportive workplace we create for our employees, the responsible products and services we offer our customers, and the impact we help create around the world in helping local economies thrive. An important part of this work is forming strong partnerships across sectors – including community and environmental advocate groups, as well as nonprofits – in order to bring together our collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact. Learn more at, and connect with us on Twitter at @BofA_News.