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Nearly one-third of teen relationships show signs of financial abuse, study finds

Key Points
  • Nearly one-third of teens are showing signs of unhealthy financial relationships, according to a survey from Junior Achievement and the Allstate Foundation.
  • The warning signs may include partners stopping teens from going to school or work, or controlling how they spend money.
  • However, most teens are willing to talk about money and relationships with their parents or guardians.
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As teenagers navigate matters of love and money, a troubling percentage of young relationships are showing signs of financial abuse.

Some 31% of U.S. teens aged 13 to 18 have flagged the signals of financial abuse — which may be controlling a partner's ability to receive, spend or save money — according to a study from Junior Achievement and the Allstate Foundation.

Both teen girls and boys reported a partner had stopped them from going to school or work, or their partner has told them what they could and could not purchase. 

More than one-third of teens felt pressure to say "yes" when a partner asked them for money, with boys feeling more compelled (41%) than girls (34%). There was also more of a push among Asian (40%), Hispanic (44%) and Black (45%) teens.

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And nearly 3 in 10 teen lenders were not paid back as promised, the study reported.

"If you look at the tendencies of these kinds of behaviors, it's very similar to what happens with the adult population," said Ed Grocholski, senior vice president of brand for Junior Achievement USA.

"It's definitely kind of a warning sign or precursor of things to come," he said.

The survey also found most teens (62%) aren't ready for shared financial responsibilities with a romantic partner or friend.

It's definitely kind of a warning sign or precursor of things to come.
Ed Grocholski
Senior vice president of brand for Junior Achievement USA

While most teens (61%) trust their parents or guardians for advice on healthy shared finances in a romantic relationship or with a friend, fewer than one-third have talked about it, suggesting caregivers may need to spark the conversation.

"It's really important that parents take the initiative to really try to engage their kids in these conversations," Grocholski said. "It's an opportunity to get a better understanding of what they're dealing with now."

However, not all parents or guardians are modeling healthy financial relationships for their teens to follow.  

More than half of teens have heard caregivers arguing about money over the past month. These spats have included issues like spending too much (45%), bills costing more than expected (37%), needing more funds (34%) and a large expense (32%).

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Additionally, one-third of teens reported their parents or guardians spent money on things they didn't need rather than supporting the family.

"Kids don't really understand why adults make the decisions they do when it comes to money," Grocholski said, pointing out the opportunity for families to talk about budgeting, spending and debt. 
The Junior Achievement Survey polled a nationally representative group of 1,000 teenagers, aged 13 to 18, with an oversample of up to 100 Asian Americans, between July 16 and July 22.   

Junior Achievement and the Allstate Foundation have partnered to create Personal Finance 2.0, a national financial literacy program for teens, which includes how to recognize and avoid unhealthy financial relationships.

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