Young Americans fail to frequently check bank balances, survey shows

BY KEN TYSIAC
April 25, 2012

Although technology has made it easier to track finances, many Americans aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity, according to a new survey.

Seventeen percent of 18- to 34-year-olds check their bank accounts daily, according to a national telephone survey conducted for the AICPA by Harris Interactive in recognition of National Financial Literacy Month. That’s less than one-third of the 54% of Americans in that age group who reported checking their social media accounts at least once a day. On average, those who check their social media accounts do so more than seven times daily; those who check bank accounts do so an average of three times a day.

“Obviously, this group has the technology, the knowledge, and the wherewithal to go in and use technology to access their bank accounts, their 401(k) accounts, and their different accounts,” said Jordan Amin, chair of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Now we just have to get them into that behavior.”

The survey covered other age groups as well. Among 35- to 44-year-olds, 34% check social media accounts at least once a day; 14% check their bank accounts daily.

Four in 10 adults reported that they never check their retirement account balances, and one-quarter of seniors and adults with a high school education or less never check their bank account balances.

Amin said that frequently checking account balances, including credit card balances, can protect consumers from losing money or incurring costs due to fraud and/or honest mistakes.

“All this information is available online,” he said. “It’s very easy to log on. I’m not asking people to spend hours researching the different funds they’re in. But why wouldn’t you check your retirement account balance?”

The National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offers the following tips on checking finances:

Each Friday, stop by an ATM, log in to your bank account, or call your financial institution to verify your balances and the accuracy of your transactions. That will give you an educated start to your weekend, when you are more likely to make discretionary purchases.

If you check your bank account on the internet, do so from a secured network at your home. Don’t save financial passwords on your computer or mobile device; you don’t want your security compromised.

When checking the status of your friends on social media, check your financial status. Once a day, check your account online or by phone to verify the accuracy of your transactions.

Set up text alerts with your banks and credit card companies to inform you when you reach a pre-determined threshold.

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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