By Deanna C. White
America's young adults face some of the most difficult financial challenges today – staggering student loan and credit card debt, a tough job market, and an uncertain economic future.
Yet, according to a recent study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, young Americans also possess another unique distinction. As a generation, they lack the financial literacy they need to make smart economic decisions.
"The study's findings . . . point to the gap between the challenges Americans face, especially young Americans, in managing their finances and their demonstrated knowledge and confidence in financial matters", Cyrus Amir-Mokri, assistant secretary for financial institutions at the US Department of the Treasury, said in his preface to the study. "One important step in bridging this gap is helping young people early in their lives gain the knowledge and skills to make sound financial decisions."
This August, the Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA) took a step toward bridging that gap and building a storehouse of financial knowledge when it launched a new video series, Investing in Your Future: Top Financial Strategies for Young Adults, designed to help young Americans tackle their most pressing financial challenges.
The OSCPA videos offer mini-tutorials on ten timely financial topics specifically geared toward young Americans who are just beginning to form their financial footprint. Topics include everything from buying vs. renting, how to maintain good credit, opening joint accounts, and borrowing money for college.
The Investing in Your Future video series debuts on the heels of the May 2013 release of FINRA's 2012 Financial Capability in the United States study. According to the study",Americans age eighteen to twenty-four are at a 'pronounced disadvantage' on several measures, including signs of financial stress, unemployment, overdrawn accounts, and financial literacy."
OSCPA Assistant Manager of Public Relations Jennifer Rieman said the society wanted to create a financial literacy tool that could be accessed easily and shared quickly via social media.
The videos are presented by Alex Swain, CPA, and William Vasil, CPA, CFP, MAcc, CDFA, both members of the OSCPA Young CPA Columbus Regional Committee, in an effort to make the content more relatable to their younger audience.
Each video is divided into chapters, so viewers can jump quickly to the topics that interest them most, with Swain and Vasil offering key tips and strategies for dealing with the everyday financial issues effecting young adults striking out on their own.
"We wanted to make it fun and easy to watch", Rieman said.
Whether the videos become a YouTube sensation remains to be seen, but Vasil said he hopes the OSCPA videos provide a "missing piece" of the financial literacy puzzle for young adults struggling to find a foothold in incredibly trying financial times.
"Living paycheck to paycheck is a significant issue that many young adults face", Vasil said. "This financial lifestyle prevents young adults from building an adequate emergency fund and saving properly for retirement. [The video is] an excellent resource to help them achieve financial stability."
A financial stability that will remain forever elusive, Swain believes, unless young Americans make financial literacy their first financial concern.
"Making financial literacy and financial wellness a priority is the biggest issue facing young adults today", Swain said. "Most young adults do not receive financial education during high school or college, and they need to be proactive to find tools to help manage personal finances. Taking action at a young age is extremely important. This can seem daunting to young adults, but it is crucial for them to do what they can, even if it seems insignificant, and to start early."
The Investing in Your Future series for young adults follows earlier videos covering tax planning and retirement planning. All videos are free to the public and accessible at Financial Fitness Ohio as well as the OSCPA's YouTube channel.