In your 20s, money does buy happiness (well, sort of)

  • Millennials who no longer rely on their parents for financial support are more confident and happier overall, according to the results of a 10-year study by the National Endowment for Financial Education.
  • Parents need to educate their children about money, just as they do about sex, says NEFE’s CEO Ted Beck.

Like the U2 song says, “sometimes you can't make it on your own” — but if you can, you’ll be a lot better off.

Millennials who stand on their own two feet are more confident and happier overall, according to the results of a 10-year study by the National Endowment for Financial Education, which followed the same group of young adults from their first year in college at the University of Arizona through their 20s.

After a decade, those who were no longer relying on their parents for financial support and were paying their own bills, were more likely to be employed full time, married and starting families.

They were also making healthier financial choices like working more hours to make ends meet and saving up for big purchases (rather than racking up credit card debt), the report found.

Although hefty student loan bills from school and sky-high rents in many cities have made it unaffordable for some recent graduates to support themselves entirely on their own, low unemployment and higher starting salaries have helped — slowly but surely — more millennials move out of their parents’ homes.

But the path to financial independence starts long before college, according to Ted Beck, NEFE’s CEO.

"Parental influence is by far and away the strongest indicator of future financial behavior." -Ted Beck, the CEO of NEFE

“Talk to your kids about money,” he said. “Parental influence is by far and away the strongest indicator of future financial behavior.”

“Like the talk about sex, don’t try to sit down once and pass along all your knowledge,” he added. “Break it into pieces so it’s absorbed.”

Beck recommends having regular discussions about how money factors into family decisions and owning your own financial missteps.

A recent parents, kids and money survey from T. Rowe Price also found that young adults who discussed money with their parents are more likely to have a budget, more likely to have an emergency fund, more likely to put 10 percent or more of their income toward savings and more likely to have a retirement account.

"On the Money" airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. ET. Check listings for air times in local markets.