New Metric: You Reach Adulthood When the Bills Are in Your Name
You can vote at age 18. You can walk into a bar at age 21. But you aren’t an adult until you move out of the basement and start paying your own mobile phone bill, new research suggests.
Parents may have been thinking this way for eons. But now young people are on board too. In a poll of 18-to-26-year-olds, 39% said finally achieving financial independence is what would make them an adult. That was the top answer, ahead of 7% naming graduating from high school or college and 7% naming getting married, according to the Bank of America Better Money Habits poll. A stunning 62% do not feel like adults when they turn 18.
Read next: Millennials Say Financial Independence Is Their Top Priority
This is what the new life phase called "emerging adulthood" looks like. Young people routinely do not launch until they are 28 to 30 years old. They boomerang home after college, pay down their student loans, and wait for the job they want. They delay things like marriage and a home purchase—and, according to the survey, understand full well that they are not carrying the full weight of adulthood.
Fewer than half pay rent or have their own health insurance; only a quarter contribute to a 401(k) plan and just over half pay their own cell phone bill, the survey found. These young millennials are acutely aware that they are unprepared for the financial world. Asked what they wish they had learned more about in school, personal finance was the top answer. Here’s a breakdown:
- 43% wished they had learned how to invest;
- 40%, how to do taxes;
- 26%, how to manage monthly bills;
- 21%, how to save for retirement
In many cases, they intend to send a message in the election: 65% say economic issues are most important in determining who they will vote for, ahead of 34% putting cultural issues at the top. The economic issues that are top of mind include job growth, healthcare costs, and college affordability.
These findings are echoed in a report from Fidelity, due out this week. That report is expected to show an increase in the number of millennials living with parents. But there is an upside to that trend: More young people appear to have long-term savings and a near-term emergency fund. Living in the basement has its advantages.