August 21, 2013 11:00 ET

The Thrifty Generation?

New Survey Reveals Today's Teens Financially Frugal While Preparing for College

EAST WINDSOR, NJ--(Marketwired - Aug 21, 2013) - According to a new study conducted by McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union, today's teens are a frugal generation, at least for now. Rather than spending wastefully or expecting parents to cover their costs, only one in 20 teens say they use a credit card. For nearly 60%, cash is a primary payment method, followed by debit cards at 36%. Most notably, nearly 70% expect to cover part of the cost of college, and 60% say they have a plan for college expenses.

The national survey, conducted by C&R Research of 305 teens aged 17 and 18, also concluded:

  • Teens appear to be credit conscious (of those with a credit card, 69% say they always pay the balance in full)
  • Over half use credit responsibly (under two percent make less than the minimum payment and/or go over their credit limit)
  • Tuition costs factored significantly in college selection according to 53% of those queried
  • A majority (60%) have established a spend plan (budget) for their college expenses
    • A majority (55%) took the initiative and established it themselves
    • Half will be financially responsible for their books, and about a third will be financially responsible for tuition, room and board, and/or meal plan.

When asked which song best summed up their relationship to money, a majority of teens (51%) chose the popular "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, espousing the joys of second-hand shopping. According to McGraw-Hill FCU President/CEO Shawn Gilfedder, the recent recession may have influenced the attitudes and behaviors of those surveyed. 

"Today's young consumers have an awareness of student loans and higher education costs," notes Gilfedder. "We're seeing heightened financial self-responsibility, which is not the same as financial literacy. As young consumers pursue higher education and careers, there needs to be an increased focus on financial preparedness at home and in the classroom."

McGraw-Hill FCU offers monthly financial literacy seminars to educators to earn professional credits toward the 9.2 Financial Literacy standards for NJ educators. Topics range from: money management; understanding and responsible use of credit; achieving and financing higher education; developing a spend plan (budget); total costs of buying and maintaining a vehicle; and planning for a secure financial future. McGraw-Hill FCU makes these monthly financial literacy seminars available to students, their families, and the community. McGraw-Hill FCU also has extensive online resources, including financial education courses, self-help quizzes, on-demand podcasts, and interactive tutorials.

About McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union
McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union, a member-owned cooperative, is a leading and progressive financial institution committed to members and the community at large through financial technology, financial education and literacy, and a consultative approach to banking. The credit union offers a full range of banking, investing, and insurance services to more than 20,000 members worldwide and serves more than 120 companies. For more information on the credit union's financial education resources, visit or view videos about McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union at