Are you worried about finding a good job (or even any job)? Nervous about paying for college? Afraid that a parent may get laid off?
If so, you're not alone.
A recent TeensHealth survey found that most teens worry about the economy. The good news is, teens also seem realistic about the future and aren't overly stressed out about the current financial situation. And most are willing to adapt to tough economic times by finding ways to use less and save more.
More than 3,000 13- to 19-year-olds took our survey in November and December 2008. Half told us they worry "a little" about the economy. About a quarter worry "a lot." But only a very few people said they're totally stressed out about the economy. And some don't worry at all.
Most of our survey-takers are optimistic that the economy will eventually get better. But they expect things will be bad for a while. Some are able to find a positive side to what's going on, like Sasha, 18, who told us: "I think that it will help prepare us to be more responsible with money in the future."
What Worries People Most?
Almost three quarters (about 70%) of the people who took our survey think that problems with the economy will affect their families directly. When we asked what people worry about most, here's what you told us:
Parents' Jobs and the Cost of Living
John, 13, is worried that "my parents could lose their jobs."
Danielle, 16, said she's concerned about "parents' job security and companies closing."
"I worry that groceries will become higher and more people will be struggling to get food or money. Also I am worried about jobs being harder to get and less money from the jobs," said Kyndale, 13.
For Lindsey, 13, it's all about "how to save money and how we can recycle more."
Kourtney, 13, says she talks to her friends about the economy. "We talk about not being able to go out as much, or shop as much. We also talk about the people we associate with whose parents have lost their jobs and have had to either sell their homes or lose them to foreclosure. It's sad and scary because we sometimes don't know where they are or if they are OK."
Chadelle, 17, doesn't live in the U.S., but says her country's economy is affected by what goes on here. The two biggest things she worries about are: "Wages decreasing; the cost of living in our country rising."
Going to college and finding a job are also on most people's minds.
Mark, 16, says he talks with friends about "the loss of part-time jobs."
Ashley, 14, talks about, "gas [prices] and jobs, because we are in high school and we need to think about this stuff."
In addition to college and jobs, many of you worry about other long-term effects of the bad economy.
Lisa, 13, thinks about "how it affects the environment."
Susan, 16, said, "When we are adults, will we be the ones who will suffer and deal with the results from the bailouts, bad economy, and reckless government and corporate spending?"
Lots of you are worried about your families, especially your parents. Sabrina, 13, said she and her friends talk about "how our parents are stressing about it way too much."
Many of you offered ideas to help parents feel less stressed. Like Alexandra, 14, who suggested, "Ask for less from parents."
Sydney, 13, said, "Be a better person so people don't get stressed out."
And, like many adults, teens see the bad economy as a chance to rethink unnecessary spending.
Maria, 14, told us, "I try to think about only what I need, not what I want."
Jen, 17, suggested, "Don't focus so much on past habits of spending, and try to enjoy hobbies that require less money."
A Family Budget Plan
One way to worry less is to talk with family members about what's going on and how it affects you. About 60% of our survey respondents said they discussed the economy with parents. Even if parents can't make you feel better (most survey-takers said they felt the same after talking to parents), simply giving voice to your worries can help.
Taking action is another way to feel better. Almost everyone who took our survey (85%) said they'd be willing to help out by thinking of ways to save money or cut down on spending. When we offered a list of ideas, the most popular ones were saving energy (turning off lights, unplugging computers, using less heat or air conditioning, driving less, etc.), finding ways to earn extra money (such as babysitting or chores), eating out less, and helping around the house so parents could save on costs like daycare or lawn service.
Working together as a family to save money lets everyone feel like they're helping out. Get together and think of ways you can spend less and save more. Perhaps mom can take coffee to work instead of picking up a latte on the go. Maybe you can pack your lunch instead of buying it. If you have younger brothers or sisters, include them too. Even little kids feel good if they can help pitch in — and it's a great way for them to learn about money.
Taking positive action helps people feel more in control of a tough situation. Thinking of ideas to save or earn money makes us feel good about our ability to be creative. And we learn valuable coping skills that make us more likely to bounce back from disappointment in tough times.
Christi, 16, summed up what many of you feel: "I'm worried that people are focusing on the stress rather than the economy," she said. "People need to adapt to change. The economy's faced hard times and good times and this is just one of the harder times. Although things may not change back to the way it used to be, which seems obvious because it led to this, it will get better in a different light. I admire this quote by Joel A. Barker: 'Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.'"
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2009