Young people who have questions about managing their money are looking for answers in a place that might surprise some – the church. Thirty-eight percent of millennials have turned to a faith community, religious leader, or faith-based financial education program for money advice, a new survey by Thrivent Financial found.
Compared to Gen Xers (23%) and baby boomers (12%), younger people were more likely to say they had looked to religious institutions for money advice. People of all ages who have mixed finances and religion were more likely to have a long-term financial plan than those who hadn’t turned to a faith community for advice (28% vs. 19%).
The importance of faith communities in helping many young people manage their finances is particularly striking in light of reports that millennials are less likely than other generations to identify as religious. Just 36% of millennials reported being religious, compared to more than half of Gen Xers or baby boomers, in a 2014 Pew Social Trends survey.
Even among those who identified as Christian, young people were more likely to look to their religious leaders or church community for help. Forty-five percent of millennial Christians said they’d take this step, compared to 25% percent of Christians overall. The survey didn’t look at how frequently people of other faiths turned to their religious communities for advice. Thrivent, which sponsored the study, is a financial services company for Christians.
The survey also didn’t delve into what specific kind of guidance that young people were getting from their faith communities. But many places of worship now provide some kind of formal financial guidance to their members.
Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is offered at numerous churches, along with other Ramsey-sponsored classes, some of which specifically focus on biblically-inspired money lessons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints offers financial lessons as part of its Provident Living program. In the U.K., the Church of England has launched programs to encourage responsible lending. People may also be looking to religious leaders and faith groups for informal financial support.
“People are turning to the church for help, whether it’s help making their mortgage payment, putting in a prayer request, assistance in finding a job or just getting practical, day-to-day strategies for managing debt,” personal finance expert Lynettee Khalfani-Cox, told CNN in 2009, when some churches reported an uptick in people seeking money help because of the Great Recession.
Thrivent’s survey also found that 77% of millennials had donated money to a nonprofit in the last year and that they were more likely than other generations to spend time volunteering. That fits with other surveys that have found that younger people are making money and life choices with broader social values in mind. A 2015 survey by Deloitte found that millennials are interested in working for companies that contribute to society in some way and that 60% chose their current job because it gave them a sense of purpose. A separate survey found that 45% of wealthy millennials are interested in socially responsible investments.
If millennials are more focused than other generations on making sure that their financial and personal choices fit with their personal values, it makes sense that some might turn to religion for guidance on how to make that happen.
“[I]f I’m a religious person, and my values are what my religion teaches, I need to ask if my financial goals are in line with those values,” Mark Waldman, the author of A Spiritual Guide to Money, told LearnVest.
But Waldman stressed that being religious by itself doesn’t mean that you’re going to be any smarter about money or make more ethical decisions than a non-believer. The important thing is making financial decisions that fit with your values, whether they’re based in a particular faith or not.
“Whatever your tradition is, financial planning offers a set of tools to help make that a reality,” he explained.
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