Summary of Dr. Arnett's Presentation

As the first presenter of the symposium, Clark University Research Professor Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, known for defining the term “emerging adulthood” in several books and articles, provided his insight and analysis of this audience by presenting his research. 

Dr. Arnett defined emerging adults as those who recently finished school, but for many this stage lasts through their 20’s. Emerging adults have unstable, quickly changing lives and have not yet taken on adult roles in life. They marry later, are exploring their identity and the possibilities life may hold for them. They are independent and “self-focused,” as they are only responsible for themselves. Despite their financial instability, low wages, credit card and other debt, they are uncannily optimistic. Thus they may not often consider future implications of debt and savings, but can justify short-term entertainment expenses.

To emerging adults, financial education is an adult concept, one they are hesitant to embrace. To make financial education relevant to them, Dr. Arnett stressed the importance of framing the discussion in the positive instead of the negative and to avoid use of scare tactics. This group does not want to be preached to but instead come to their own conclusions about how to solve problems. He pointed out that future implications of this generation’s short-term, self-focused thinking may be their inability to financially care for their parents in retirement years due to their parent’s debt and lack of financial planning.

Click here to view Dr. Arnett's presentation materials.