"Flemish youngsters irresponsible with money"

12 per cent of Flemish youngsters is prone to financially risky behaviour. Within this group, 10 percent is already even in debt, be it relatively limited. These numbers come from the Flemish Centre for Budgetary research and advicee, Cebud. Researchers are calling on the parents of the teenagers to intervene if necessary.
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Between May 2013 and January 2014, Cebud polled 2,447 students who are in the final two years of 63 different Flemish high schools. This study showed that teenagers 'make' an annual 2,394 euros on average, which is about 200 a month. The sum mainly consists of pocket money they receive from their parents, and of cash they earn from students jobs during the weekends or school holidays.

The adolescents spend their money "mainly on 'fun stuff' like going out, candy and snacks, or videogames", says the Cebud report. "In more than half of all families, the parents are responsible for the cost of school, health care, clothing, transport, hobbies and sports, vacations, and reading material."

Debt remains limited

Many youngsters don't know how to responsibly spend their money, Cebud researchers observed. 12 per cent of them is showing tendencies towards financially risky behaviour. 10 per cent of them is even in debt, although, here, we're mostly talking about 35 euros that the teenager owes friends or family. An actual formal debt, for example with a bank, is almost impossible for a Flemish teenager to get into.

25 percent of questioned adolescents frequently borrows money from their friends or their parents. These are mostly small sums, but 20 per cent has borrowed more than 50 euros at least once. Another 25 per cent sometimes plays their money for a bet. Almost 10 per cent does this on a monthly basis. Also by voting via text message, or by buying virtual goods, youngsters often spend a lot of (and sometimes too much) money.

Out on the town

Researchers say there are several factors as to why young people show more financially risky conduct. "Especially in youngsters who go out a lot and frequently use drugs, we see a pattern of chancy behaviour, which reflects a lifestyle of excess and instant gratification. Moreover, these youngsters don't seem to be aware of the risks they're taking, and they are not too worried about their financial future."

Teenagers from lower to lower middle-class families also show a higher tendency to risky behaviour. Though, at the same time, these youngsters seem to be more aware of the risks. Also, they're often short on money simply because of necessary basic expenses, instead of just leisure payments. With some of them, the problem lies with the general family income.

Another issue is social pressure. Young people are very susceptible to the opinions of their peers. 'Fitting in' is important, but sometimes it comes with a price.

Parents and school

To confine financially risky behaviour in young people, researchers are mainly looking at the parents. A financially responsible upbringing is a safeguard from risky conduct with money. Furthermore, it's important that parents transfer some of the responsibility for non-leisure expenses to their kids, so they learn how to sensibly spend cash.

Finally, researchers say that a financial education at school is key. They found that youngsters estimate their financial managing abilities to be just fine, even though their actual knowledge on the subject is fairly limited.