Facts & Resources

Survey: Financial Self Reliance More Than Age Defines Adulthood for Columbia Area Young Adults

Bank of America/USA TODAY Better Money Habits Report Shows Job Growth, Student Debt Are Top Campaign Issues for Young Voters in the Area

Thursday, October 13, 2016 11:01 am EDT


Columbia, S.C.

A newly released Bank of America/USA TODAY Better Money Habits® Report finds that for 18- to 26-year-olds in Columbia, the definition of adulthood has changed: it is less about age and more about financial independence. In fact, 49 percent did not feel like adults when they turned 18.

When asked to define adulthood, this age group, which includes the youngest millennials, as well as the oldest members of Generation Z, responded “working or having a full time job” as the top answer. Additionally:

  • Forty-five 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 graduating from high school/college (6 percent) or getting married/starting a family (2 percent).

  • For those who feel like adults, 55 percent say it’s because they currently make enough money to support themselves.

  • For those who do not feel like adults, 64 percent say it is because they still rely on their parents.

Many still rely on their parents for financial support: 43 percent still live at home, and 53 percent pay their own cell phone bills. Only 39 percent do their own taxes without help from their parents. The good news is that 51 percent are setting aside money in savings.

“It’s great to see that young adults here are saving, but we also found that only one in four is putting money into a 401(k),” said Nicole Curtis, vice president, Strategic Communications and Enterprise Initiatives, Bank of America. “Though it may seem far off, it is very important that we teach those just starting out that early retirement planning is one of the wisest financial decisions that they can make. Through our financial education resource Better Money Habits, we are trying to make sure those messages break through.”

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.

Majority optimistic, yet express doubt about outside economic factors

The young adult population in Columbia is notably upbeat about their financial futures, with 71 percent feeling somewhat or very optimistic about their own financial prospects.

Yet despite positivity about their own finances, 54 percent have doubts about the economy and 46 percent have concerns about the job market. Fifty-six percent report being worried about finding a career path that will support the lifestyle they’ve envisioned for themselves.

Most say they wished they had learned more about money in high school

While striving for financial independence, many young adults in Columbia say they did not learn enough about practical money matters in high school. Though their education has set them up for success in other ways, only 36 percent said their high school education did a good job teaching them strong financial habits.

When asked what they wish they had learned more about in school, the top response was how to invest (48 percent). Thirty-four percent wish they had learned how to prepare for a job interview, and 29 percent regret not having learned how to do their own taxes.

As election approaches, job growth and student debt are top issues

With the campaigns in the home stretch, the report also surveyed young, first- and second-time voters in Columbia and around the country. Those new to the ballot box expect the upcoming election to impact their personal financial futures, and are heading to the polls with financial matters in mind:

  • When asked which issues matter most, 29 percent stated job growth/unemployment; college affordability/student debt came in second at 28 percent.

  • Among those with student debt, 59 percent say it will impact the way they vote, with 26 percent saying it will impact their vote “a great deal.”

  • Seventy-seven percent say their personal financial situation is important in determining the way they vote.

Yet, while these financial matters carry weight, 61 percent said that social issues are ultimately more important than economic issues (39 percent) when deciding how to vote. Nationally, young adults said just the opposite, with 65 percent planning to prioritize economic issues at the polls.

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.


Reporters May Contact:
Jennifer Darwin, Bank of America, 980.683.2689