Man throwing money and hundred dollar bills into the air

A man throwing money (© deagreez -

NEW YORK — For many, life in their early twenties was a time of risk-taking and throwing caution into the wind while still young. And as it turns out, it’s also when most people live life on the edge with their money, too. According to a new survey, the average American hits peak financial recklessness at 22 years-old.

The poll of 2,000 Americans examines financial wake-up calls people have as adults. Researchers find that two in three respondents confess to not paying nearly enough attention to their finances when they’re younger.

The average respondent turned 25 before realizing it was time to “grow up” when it comes to handling their money. One in two people admit to feeling guilty about spending with abandon but add they just couldn’t stop themselves.

The survey, commissioned by Grain and conducted by OnePoll, finds 44 percent had what they consider “bad credit” at some point in their lives. Of those who’ve had bad credit, the average respondent hit their credit score low point at 27 years-old.

Two in five (43%) blame not keeping a budget for their credit score woes while over a third (37%) say impulse spending was a problem for them. Three in five (61%) admit to experiencing an unexpected purchase rejection due to a bad credit score.

Life’s ‘financial awakenings’

Having a charge declined served as one of many “financial awakenings” for respondents with the average person having two in their lives already. New life-altering moments like having a child (26%) or moving out of their childhood home (20%) also sparked a second look at their finances.

Other experiences that prompted respondents to have an awakening include applying for a home loan or going on disability after a health emergency. Fifty-eight percent don’t think they would have ever gotten their money in order if it weren’t for having some type of unpleasant financial experience.

“Most people pay some attention to their finances, but even fewer pay attention to or understand their credit. Financial wake-up calls happen every day, but they hit harder than ever in 2020,” says a spokesperson for Grain in a statement.

2020 served as a financial awakening for 45 percent of respondents, with 52 percent confessing the pandemic made them realize just how easily their finances can take a negative downturn. Over half the poll (55%) say they’re now “hyper-aware” of their money due to the pandemic, but they’re already taking steps to improve things in 2021.

One in four (27%) want to pay off their debt this year. One in five (22%) add their finances improved thanks to a new job and 21 percent plan on finding a new job to brighten their monetary future. Sixteen percent plan to set and forget their 2021 resolution by using automatic savings and another 16 percent will be researching new financial resources to make sure they know all their options.

“Make credit a top priority. Once your credit is managed responsibly, your life opportunities will widen,” the spokesperson for Grain adds.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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