Conventional wisdom says young people have a lot to learn when it comes to managing money, but the reality is most American college students are handling their finances carefully and conscientiously, according to “Majoring in Money: How American College Students Manage Their Finances,” a new national study from Sallie Mae and Ipsos, an independent global market research company.
Taking the Right Steps
Students are taking the right steps when it comes to managing money, the study revealed. More than three-fourths of college students pay bills on time, and six in 10 never spend more money than they have available. In addition, college students are putting money aside each month. More than half save at least some money every month, and 24 percent report having an emergency fund.
While most college students make purchases with debit cards and cash, more than half have at least one credit card. Roughly six in 10 students report their primary reason for getting a credit card was to build a credit history.
The report also finds that the majority of students with credit cards are using them responsibly and paying the bill themselves. Specifically, 63 percent pay the balance in full each month, and 73 percent pay the bill without assistance from a parent or other adult. Roughly seven in 10 report an average monthly balance of $500 or less.
“Having a credit card doesn’t necessarily mean students are overspending,” said Julia Clark, senior vice president, Ipsos Public Affairs. “The reality is they are demonstrating sound reasoning and thoughtful decision-making, and they are managing their payments effectively.”
Understanding Good Credit
The majority of college students know having a good credit record can help them qualify for different types of credit and improve their access to favorable interest rates; and the majority of students understand what positive and negative credit behaviors are.
“Many of these young people grew up in the wake of a financial crisis and, in turn, have adopted behaviors that promote sound credit management,” said Raymond J. Quinlan, chairman and CEO, Sallie Mae. “At the same time, they’re eager to learn more.”
The report also revealed that college students would benefit from additional education about specific credit topics, including how interest accumulates and how repayment behavior and credit terms affect the cost of credit over time. In fact, when asked to answer multiple choice questions on those topics, only 31 percent of students answered all three questions correctly.
Free educational tools and resources, as well as a free guide to credit handbook and free quarterly access to FICO scores, can help students improve their financial literacy. To access these resources, visit SallieMae.com.
For the complete report, visit SallieMae.com/MajoringinMoney. Join the conversation using #MajoringinMoney.
Despite popular perceptions about college students, many young scholars are acting responsibly with their finances, paving the way for successful financial futures.