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Study: Recent College Graduates with the Most Financial Savvy

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College students have headed back to school, and when they graduate and hit the job market they'll need the knowledge and skills necessary to manage their money.

EverQuote surveyed 1,000 young people age 25 and younger who graduated college earlier this year to find out who is the most savvy when it comes to personal finance. We asked about credit cards, paying back student loans, credit scores, insurance and saving for retirement.

We asked whether they received allowances as kids, about what kind of budgets their families had, and other questions to see how background and other characteristics connect to personal finance skills. We also asked how often they buy coffee, as a measure for daily spending habits, to see how that connected to larger personal finance topics.

Key takeaways

Among recent college grads:

  • Males are generally more knowledgeable and making better use of financial tools than females.
  • Those who had received allowances when growing up tend to be more financially savvy.
  • Family budget while growing up, region and political affiliation do not consistently make a difference in financial skills.

Credit card use

Wisely using credit cards is important in building a good credit score. Among the recent college grads we surveyed, 90% have at least one credit card. Half (49%) have just one.

  • Females are more likely than males (13% vs. 8%) to have no credit card.
  • 86% say they pay off their credit cards every month, with males more likely to pay them off monthly than females (89% vs. 84%).
  • Males are also more likely to know the annual percentage rate (APR) of their credit cards (72% vs. 66% among females).
  • Those who received allowances while growing up are far more likely to know their credit card APR (73% vs. 58% among those who didn't get allowances).
  • Those who never buy coffee are least likely to know their APR (only 53%).

Credit score

Building a good credit score is essential for being able to secure good interest rates on car loans and mortgages, get good credit card interest rates, get an apartment lease, and even score better auto and home insurance rates.

  • Most recent college grads (73%) say they know what their credit score is. But a troubling quarter don't know (25%), meaning they won't know whether their scores are affecting their current or future finances, or whether they need to take action to improve their scores.
  • Only 2% said they don't know what a credit score is.
  • Women are more likely to know their credit scores than men (77% vs. 70%).
  • Interestingly, democrats are more likely to say they know their credit scores than republicans (79% vs. 68%).
  • Those in the West were least likely to know their credit scores (69%).
  • College grads who received an allowance when they were children and/or teens were more likely to know their credit scores (75% vs. 69%).

Student loans

Student loan debt has reached epic levels. Americans had more than $1.53 trillion in student loan debt at the beginning of 2018, according to the Federal Reserve. Among those making monthly loan payments, the typical payment is $200 to $300, says the Federal Reserve. But many college grads aren't making payments. Among those with outstanding student loans balances, 20% were behind on their payments in 2017.

Among recent college grads we surveyed, 70% said they have student loan debt. While this debt can affect spending choices for many years, 24% said they didn't know what month and year their loans will be paid off, assuming they make the monthly payments.

Those who know when their student loan payments will end tend to be:

  • Male (81% of males knew, vs. 71% of females).
  • People who had received allowances when they were kids or teens (79% knew vs. 69% who had not received allowances).

Having the right insurance

About half (54%) of the recent college grads we surveyed say they rent an apartment or house. Among those who rent, 28% don't have renters insurance.

Renters insurance is an important financial safety net. Without it, a disaster such as a fire or tornado could wipe out all of someone's possessions, leaving them without reimbursement. At an average cost of $16 a month, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, renters insurance is an inexpensive investment.

Those we surveyed who rent apartments or houses but don't have renters insurance were most likely to:

  • Be female (31% vs. 25% among males).
  • Live in the West (35% without it).
  • Have not received an allowance while growing up (35% without it vs. 26% among those who had allowances).
  • Say their families had a very tight budget when they were growing up (33% without it).

Among recent college grads with a car, 17% can't name the auto insurance types they have on their vehicles. Not knowing what types of car insurance you have can lead to bad surprises if you're involved in a crash. For example, if you don't know whether you have collision insurance, you won't know whether insurance will cover your car damage if you hit a fence.

  • There was little difference between males and females in knowing what types of car insurance they have.
  • Democrats know their car insurance better than republicans (85% vs. 78%).
  • Those who had received allowances as kids know their car insurance better (83% vs. 77% who hadn't).
  • People who grew up in families with a tight budget know their car insurance coverage more often (86% vs. 81% of those whose families had a budget but could splurge and vs. 75% of those with families that could buy what they wanted to).

Saving for retirement

When you're fresh out of college, saving for retirement may seem like a task you can delay, especially when you have student loans and rent to pay. About 40% of people age 18 to 29 have no retirement savings, according to the Federal Reserve. The situation becomes more dire for those in the 40s who have no retirement savings (18%) and those in their 50s and older (13%).

The majority (78%) of recent college grads we surveyed have a full-time job. Among those, 69% have access to a 401(k) plan through work. Most recent grads who have access to a 401(k) say they are putting money into it every month (89%). There were not significant demographic differences among those who have started saving for retirement.

Living with Mom and Dad

Over one-third (36%) of recent college grads we surveyed live with their parents. Slightly over half (54%) say they rent an apartment or house.

Males are more likely to live with their parents -- whether by necessity or choice (43% vs. 30% for females). And males who live with their parents appear to be building a better financial foundation than females who live at home. They are more likely to:

  • Have full-time jobs (78% vs. 61% among females).
  • Have their own cars (73% vs. 69% among females).
  • If they have student loans, know when the loan will be paid off (78% vs. 62% among females).

Nonetheless, males who rent are most likely to have jobs and cars, and to know when their student loans will be paid off, when compared to males who live at home and females who either rent or live at home.

Coffee-buying and personal finance skills

We asked survey takers how many times a week they buy coffee and found a strong connection between discretionary spending for coffee and financial proficiency. Specifically, those who never buy coffee were also least likely to be knowledgeable about their own personal finances and using financial products.


EverQuote commissioned a national survey of 1,000 people age 25 and under who earned a four-year undergraduate degree this year. The survey was fielded in July 2018. Respondents were evenly split between males and females, and evenly split between democrats and republicans.

The West is defined as: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.