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Children fret about finances: Worry: Children, teen-agers and young adults are concerned about college costs, Social Security and a secure retirement.


Parents, you may be surprised to learn that you don't hold exclusive rights to financial anxiety.

You are not the only ones lying awake at night fretting over the cost of college.

You are not the only ones wondering whether the cushion of Social Security will be there to catch you when you should be entitled to it.

And you are not the only ones leery that resolving the federal budget deficit will fall on the backs of taxpayers.

Your children are nervous, too - about all of the above and more, according to two surveys of young people's attitudes about money. One studied 18-to-29-year-olds, commonly referred to as Generation X. The other asked questions of 12-to-21-year-olds, unofficially identified in the study as Generation Y.

Their concerns are all too justified, especially for those in the younger set.

"This generation is sort of the first to believe they're not going to have it better than their parents. Their parents believe it, too," said Craig R. Bloomquist, manager of the Yankelovich Partners Inc. market research group in Norwalk, Conn., which surveyed 1,200 children in the latter age group for Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance Co.

That research, plus a Lutheran Brotherhood survey of 1,005 randomly chosen Xers by Louis Harris and Associates Inc., found another troubling generational link. Parents are not the only ones suffering from a serious gap between their fiscal values and financial knowledge. Again, your children are right there with you.

"They think about money, but they don't know much," Bloomquist said. "They don't have the tools, if you will, at this point."

Half of the 18-to-29-year-olds surveyed said they have trouble sleeping or relaxing because of financial worries. More than a third have delayed having children and more than half have put off buying a house because of the financial concerns involved with each.

This group, filled with many people who are starting out in the working world, tend to fear their jobs won't provide advancement next year, their benefits will be cut and their pensions will be reduced by the time they retire. Eighty percent of college students surveyed already are worrying whether they will have enough money to retire.

Keen financial awareness at an early age really shouldn't come as a shock, said Cathy Kinyon, an estate planning specialist at Lutheran Brotherhood, a Minneapolis financial services firm.

Xers are the first generation to be raised amid rising divorce rates and the financial squeeze that usually comes with it. They are growing up in an age where two-income households have become the norm, in an era of corporate downsizing, where working 40 years for the same company has become a thing of the past.

They are growing up at a time when the cost of education is jumping off the spread sheet.

"My biggest concern is school - not knowing if there's going to be enough for college," said Nicole Zizka, 22, of Garfield Heights, Ohio, who hopes to return to Cleveland State University next spring.

Toward that goal, Zizka works a full-time retail sales job and moved in with her grandmother two months ago to save money. Like Zizka, half of those surveyed in the Yankelovich study acknowledged worrying about the cost of college short term.

Long term, their worries carry a familiar ring.

"Our national debt is so high," said Rick Scruggs, 23, a Spartanburg, S.C., resident visiting relatives in Greater Cleveland. "You end up with higher taxes. Somebody has to pay it."

But the studies also found that their fiscal knowledge hasn't kept up with a more acute financial awareness than the previous generation had. Nearly 90 percent of the respondents from Generation Y agreed that people should save for the future. But a quarter of them didn't know what a budget is - including 17 percent of college students surveyed - and a third couldn't define "buying on credit."

"We were shocked at their low level of understanding," Bloomquist said.

Pub Date: 12/01/96

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