A Good Sign, Or Symptoms of a Broken System?

From the 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 percent of teens aged 14 through 19 save their money for college, a much higher rate than the 40 percent 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.”

Yes, it’s nice that kids are taking responsibility for their finances. But is this really the sort of position a 16- or 17-year-old should be in? Realistically, given that they’re full-time students and therefore can work only so many hours in a given week, how much of a possible dent could they make in their future tuition bills, even if they’re extremely prudent? I don’t see much good news here.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.