As a study from the American Institute of CPAs put it, Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 “are caught between a Baby Boomer rock and a fiscal hard place.”The institute recently commissioned the study to examine the spending and saving habits of the so-called Generation Y. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 40 million Americans in the demographic.

This study found that over the last 20 years, young Americans appear to have done less to save and accumulate wealth -- as the proportion of the population possessing a savings account or other financial assets has declined significantly, so has median net worth.

The number of people in the demographic maintaining an interest-bearing account or other savings instrument declined, from 65 percent in 1985, to 55 percent in 2004. Ownership of a savings account with a bank also fell, from 61 percent, to 47 percent, during those same years. The group’s median net worth fell, from $6,788 in 1985, to $3,746 in 2004.

The study also found:

  • There is an increased willingness among Americans in the age group to acquire unsecured debt: The average level of debt in 1985 was $3,118, where by 2004, it had climbed to $4,733;
  • On average, net worth for the group was 99 percent of income in 1985; by 2004, it was 92 percent; and,
  • The East-South Central region of the United States (comprising Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi) ranked lowest in ownership of savings instruments and net worth.

The full report is available at and was conducted by economists with Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics, on behalf of Feed the Pig, a national public-service campaign launched this week by the AICPA and Ad Council.

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