Junior Achievement Survey Also Shows “Cash is Still King” as Payment Method for Teens

When did you start saving for retirement? Were you ever given information to help explain your options? According to Junior Achievement’s 2017 Teens & Personal Finance Survey, a large disconnect exists between young people and a basic understanding of 401Ks. Although thirty percent of teens know that a 401K is a retirement plan where the employee contributes a certain amount and the employer matches, the majority (70 percent) of teens don’t know what a 401K is based on anything that they have read or heard. The survey of 1,000 U.S. teens between the ages of 13 and 17 was conducted March 17-21, 2017 by Junior Achievement USA and ORC International.

Some may wonder why it’s important for teens to know how a 401K works, but the fact is if you are a 17-year-old, within the next few years you may have the opportunity to contribute to one.” said Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “One of the reasons Americans don’t save enough for retirement is that they get started too late. By teaching teens today about the importance of contributing to 401Ks and IRAs starting with their first job, we may be able to start addressing that issue.”

Another finding shows that more than three in five teens (62 percent) prefer to use cash when purchasing items in a store. Fewer than one in three (29 percent) said they use a credit/debit card, far fewer (4 percent) use an electronic form of payment such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, or PayPal, or use a check (1 percent). Five percent weren’t sure. Despite today’s access to technology, cash is still a preferred method of payment for teens. This means that they do not have much experience with interest and fee bearing methods of payment. The education of using these payment methods responsibly is very important before reaching adulthood.

Junior Achievement is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to categorize needs and wants, own their economic success, plan for their futures, and make smart academic and economic choices. Junior Achievement’s programs—in the core content areas of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy—ignite the spark in young people to experience and realize the opportunities and realities of work and life in the 21st century.

Financial literacy must become an integral component of teens’ education because many of them are not prepared to deal with the complexities of everyday financial topics that are pervasive in our lives –interest rates, car loans, credit cards, debt and taxes are just a few. According to a recent study from ING Direct, 87 percent of teenagers admit that they don’t know much about finances. However, 35 percent of those teens stated that they wanted to learn how to save money, and 28 percent wanted to learn more about budgeting. Despite the desire to learn, these young adults are not being given the tools they need to better handle their personal finances. Junior Achievement has a long history of providing financial literacy to teens and young adults and is well-equipped to ensure these kids are ready for the real world by showing them how to deal with money,” said Art Tellez, Junior Achievement of Arizona board member and Deer Valley resident.

Serving nearly 94,000 students each year and over 2 million since its founding, Junior Achievement of Arizona is shaping the college and career-readiness conversation, and plays an important role in Arizona’s workforce and economic development. Junior Achievement connects what students learn in the classroom to the real world, and demonstrates how learning correlates to earning – knowledge critical to empowering today’s students to be successful, contributing members of society in the future. Currently the organization partners with more than 380 schools and 8,000 volunteers from the business community to provide this important education to young people across the state. For more information, visit jaaz.org.


This report presents the findings of an Opinion Research Corporation’s Youth CARAVAN survey conducted among a sample of 1,000 13-17 year olds. Respondents for this survey are selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation, no estimates of sampling error are calculated.

About Junior Achievement of Arizona

Junior Achievement of Arizona (JA) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that teaches Arizona students the knowledge and skills they need to manage their money, plan for their future, and make smart academic, career and economic choices. Since 1957, JA has taught Arizona students, Kindergarten through high school, about financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. Delivered by more than 8,000 corporate and community volunteers, the organization’s hands-on, age-appropriate programs are designed to empower students to own their economic success. Junior Achievement of Arizona reached nearly 94,000 students during the 2015-2016 school year. Follow JA on Twitter and Instagram @JAArizona, and like the organization on Facebook (facebook.com/JAArizona). For more information, visit jaaz.org.