Generation Z -- young people between the ages of 13 and 22 -- are learning to handle money by watching their parents struggle through a difficult economy.

A new survey from TD Ameritrade reports that these young people are already saving money ($300, on avearge) and are focused on big financial questions, such as how to afford college.

Why are these young people already taking on such weighty financial issues? The answer seems to be that having come of age during the financial crisis, they were exposed early to the importance of learning how to manage money.

TD Ameritrade reports that generation Z has watched their parents struggling to pay back student loans, which in turn taught them how much of a burden those loans can be. Almost six in 10 parents of generation Z reported taking out student loans, and 43 percent continue to pay them back today. At the same time, about half of those parents are also saving for their own children’s future college educations.

Seeing their parents deal with the difficult economy seems to have had a positive overall effect: Three in four young people said they think saving money is important, and four in ten said they have a budget, which they follow closely. Over half of generation Z respondents surveyed said they would save an extra $500, with an additional 11 percent reporting they would put it toward college costs.

Still, the news isn’t all good. Credit card problems are already cropping up among the 13-to-22 crowd. Among those who have a credit card, over half have carried a balance for over six months, which means racking up interest and more debt, and fewer than one in four routinely pay off their cards each month. Many young people don’t yet have their own savings or checking accounts, which can help them learn how to save and manage accounts.

Not surprisingly, parents played a pivotal role: The better budgeters were more likely to have parents who talked about money with them. Parents, reports TD Ameritrade, “are still the most influential variable when it comes to educating children on basic financial skills.”

Source: U.S. News & World Report
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/alpha-consumer/2012/06/20/kids-learn-from-parents-money-mistakes