Personal Finances: The Final Frontier for Social Media


Anna Greenberg and Jessica Keating
AARP in support of LifeTuner.org

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Report: Personal Finances: The Final Frontier for Social Media (PDF - 27 K)

Executive Summary

Money issues, especially keeping up with routine bills and carrying debt, are far-and-away the thing that young people worry about most in life. Sadly, these financial problems often leak into their social lives, contributing to stress in relationships with friends and partners. Given these money-related worries and stresses, it is surprising to learn that finances are the least talked about or shared information online by young adults, even in this era of extensive social networking.

Discussing financial information is the final frontier of social media and networking. Young people are slightly more likely to say they have disclosed their weight or mental health status through social media than to acknowledge sharing financial information online.

The few who have posted financial content usually post information such as identifying recent purchases rather than deeper or larger questions about their financial lives. For a generation so tech-savvy and clearly comfortable with the interconnectedness of social media, it is astonishing that financial issues are still such a taboo subject for young people connecting online. Most young people do not count the internet as one of the top two sources they use to seek out financial advice in a pinch, relying on parents or friends instead. Yet, those few young people who have reached out online for financial advice have generally found the experience rewarding, and cite greater confidence in their handling of money. There is clearly a need for a richer and customized online source of financial advice for young Americans, who are facing the most challenging economy in 70 years.

This report, commissioned by AARP in support of LifeTuner.org, explores some of the dynamics around young people’s financial concerns, their use of social media, and their discomfort with mixing the two.

Key Findings

  • The number one thing young people worry about is money and finances (57 percent), along with jobs, unemployment, and career issues (18 percent). These concerns trump all other issues including health (10 percent), relationships (10 percent), and education (8 percent). The vast majority of young people say financial issues have caused stress in a relationship (68 percent), including situations where a partner overspends (40 percent), borrows money (25 percent), or carries considerable amounts of debt (30 percent).
  • Debt contributes substantially to young people’s concerns about their finances. Nearly all young adults carry some amount of debt (78 percent) and generally see their debt load increase as they grow into their thirties. Significant proportions of young people are racking up credit card debt (36 percent), car loans (30 percent), and unpaid medical bills (23 percent).
  • Young people are posting a lot of personal information, but only 1 in 10 young people say they share “financial information” or seek financial advice through social media.Finances are the last frontier in online sharing. Young people will post just about anything, except information about their financial situation (9 percent) and sex life (10 percent).
  • Matters of money can cause stress in a young adult’s relationship or signify a compatible partner. Most young adults say financial issues have caused stress in a relationship (68 percent), including situations in which one partner consistently overspends (40 percent) or has too much debt (30 percent). Given the prevalence of these stressors, it is not surprising how young adults prioritize compatible financial behaviors - 38 percent of young adults said that attitudes toward money and spending behaviors were among the top three most important traits in a partner, out-ranked only by family values (80 percent) and attractiveness (54 percent).

Methodology

This poll was commissioned by AARP in support of LifeTuner.org.  Greenberg Quinlan Rosner designed and administered a multi-modal (RDD, cell and web) survey. The survey reached 1002 adults, 18-34 years old. The survey was conducted August 29 - September 10, 2009.