By David Pitt, AP Personal Finance Writer
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Stroll through the mall on a weekend and you get the impression teens save money to buy clothes or iPods and video game systems, but a new survey shows their priority is quite different — saving for college.
The survey by online brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. shows putting money away for higher education is the top savings goal for today's teens. The results showed 62% of teens aged 14 through 19 save their money for college, a much higher rate than the 40% of adults who said they saved when they were teens.
The results weren't expected by educators who are pushing for financial literacy education in schools.
"It's a pleasant surprise that we're seeing young people paying that much attention to the importance of this issue," said Joseph Peri, CEO of the nonprofit Council for Economic Education. "Part of teaching the importance of investing is showing that the best investment a young person can make is an investment in themselves."
Peri's group and several other educational organizations are holding a conference in Washington this weekend in which 500 educators and government officials are discussing ways to teach basic financial literacy in schools. That means educating students about budgeting, bank accounts, investing and saving.
Although the T.D. Ameritrade survey indicated teens understand some of those concepts, it revealed some interesting generational shifts in attitudes about money.
Fewer than half of today's teens said they get their cash from part-time or weekend jobs, while 77% of adults said work was their source of money as teens.
Today's teens get most of their money from their parents or from gifts for occasions like birthdays.
The fact that they are given more of their money rather than earning it increases the importance of financial literacy at a young age, said Diane Young, director of retirement and goal planning for TD Ameritrade.