What Young Americans Worry About Financially

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- America's younger set seems to be in significant despair, at least compared with their parents and grandparents.

And with good reason.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans aged 16-19 experienced an unemployment rate of 21.4% through February, and Americans aged 20-24 -- a demographic that includes millions of new college graduates -- are seeing a jobless rate of 11.9%.

The timing could not be worse for college grads. Average debt for 2012 college graduates is $29,400, according to the Project On Student Loan Debt. That's up from $18,750 for 2004 college graduates.

"For many 2012 graduates, their college years came during a time of increasing college costs and stagnant family resources," says a statement from the group, which was launched by the Institute for College Access & Success. "State budget cuts led to sharp tuition increases at many public colleges, increasing students' need to borrow."

According to project data, 71% of college grads graduated with student loan debt in 2012, compared with 65% in 2004.

No wonder younger Americans are so down on themselves, the economy and the country in general. To them, the American Dream has become more elusive and unobtainable than at any time in the past 80 years.

The tax firm H&R Block has take the pulse of the nation's young adults and teens, and what they're worrying about financially should be on the minds of any parent, economist and politician in the country: 

  • Eight of every 10 teenagers (ages 13 to 17) are worried about finding a good job.
  • 78% are anxious about potential student loan debt.
  • 50% are concerned about being worse off financially than their parents.
  • 97% still plan on attending college.
  • More than 75% still rely on their parents/guardians for financial information.

In short, today's teens are finding it tough to be optimistic about their financial futures, and to learn key money lessons.

"Today's economic realities are bringing about real financial pressure and stress at a younger age," says Kathy Collins, chief marketing officer at H&R Block. "Our survey shows 57% of teens use their own money on purchases, yet they often lack fundamental money management skills. The good news is, the research clearly illustrates a desire to learn, to grow and to become financially savvy -- and parents play a huge part in that."

H&R Block says that 62% of young Americans are dependent on their parents as good financial role models, making that where the road to recovery must begin: with parents passing along critical knowledge about money, savings, spending and debt.