How Much Do Teenagers Spend?

When teens are not texting one another or updating their Facebook profiles, they are borrowing money from their parents. Unknowingly, parents are being very generous — to the tune of an estimated $208.7 billion in 2011. The teenager population, according to a Package Facts report, is approximately 25.6 million in the US. (If they all met together in one place it would certainly lead to epic — unrecoverable — server and wifi service crashes.) Getting older has its benefits: the average 12-14 year old teen has an average annual income of $2,167; for a 15-17 year old that amount increases to $4,023. Keeping that population fed, dressed and groom keeps parents working hard to pay off that staggering $110 billion annual cost — and that does not include cell phone and internet service. These are truly the children of the Internet Age — more than 90% use a computer and 51.6% state the the Internet has changed the way they spend their free time.

As teenagers mature into young adults (ages 18-24) and are weaned from their parents’ wallets, things are not as rosy. Since the 1960’s, ad agencies and marketers focused much of their efforts in appealing to this demographic. They may want to rethink that strategy. Due to their newly established financial independence and the impact of the recent recession, these young adults are a relatively frugal (euphemism for broke) bunch. Employment for young adults has fallen steadily since 2007: 54% are not working. Subsequently, if there is no job there is no money for rent: 20% live at home (in 1980 that rate was 10%). And unlike their parents, these young adults have a rather relaxed morality: 70% admit to pirating music and movies compared to 46% of adults. All this unemployment has led to less social networking for young adults; meanwhile parents are enjoying their freedom without financially-dependent children: social networking among adults over 65 years old has grown 150%. Who says the AARP crowd isn’t hip to “the Twitter”?

For futher reading: Time, April 9, 2012, The Young and the Penniless by Andrea Ford.

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