Although they have little trust in financial advisors, young American investors feel they are well-educated about handling their own budgets and are optimistic about the future. 

“With access to online resources and tools, younger generations are now able to take financial matters into their own hands to gain the financial confidence they need to succeed.” said Stuart Rubinstein, managing director of client engagement at TD Ameritrade, Inc.

According to a survey of 963 adults between 21 and 80 conducted by Maritz Inc. on behalf of TD Ameritrade, 52% of “Gen X,” (ages 35 to 46) and 64% of “Gen Y,” (ages 22 to 34) rely more on websites than any other source for financial information. Boomers and seniors are more likely to turn to TV, radio and newspapers. One-third of  the Gen Y respondents rely on social media for news about the economy and financial markets, compared to 27% of Gen X, 21% of boomers (ages 47 to 66), and 14% of seniors (age 66 and up).

Only 21% of Gen Y and 32% of Gen X turn to professional investment advisors for financial news, compared to 38% of boomers and 37% of seniors.  Gen Y is most skeptical of professional investment advisors with only 10 percent of respondents trusting them the most as a valued source of news.

Young people are learning about money and taking responsibility for their own budgets as teenagers, according to the survey.  Nearly half of  Gen X  and Gen Y say they got their first money lessons at age 12 or younger while 62% and 69% say they took responsibility for their money in their teens, compared to 53% of boomers and 41% of seniors.

The youngest group feel they were most set up for financial success by their training.

“It appears that parents are learning from their financial mistakes and are trying to better prepare their children by teaching them financial lessons at an early age,” Rubinstein said. “Teaching children simple financial lessons such as budgeting, balancing finances and saving at an early age can help set them up for financial success in the future.”

The younger set may be too sanguine, though. Most of those who cut back during the recession say they’ll return to their former spending patterns. According to a report from the Pew Foundation, only 33% of the 18-29-year old set say they’ll continue to spend less, compared to more than 40% of adults ages 30 to 64.

A large majority of respondents, at 74%, feel that schools should take on more responsibility for teaching children how to save and manage their money.­ Among seniors, 44% think employers should be responsible for teaching employees about money management, compared to just 22 percent of Gen X and Gen Y who agree.

Half of all boomers, more than any other group, feel they have more financial stress than their parents. Only 44% Gen X and 30% of Gen Y agreed.

As one would expect, priorities differ across the generations. For example, 39% of seniors and 29% of Gen Y stated that their top priority at their stage in life was to be able to manage their income and expenses so that they could live within their means; 34% of Boomers were focused on accumulating money for retirement, with only 26% “completely confident” they would accomplish this goal before retirement. A quarter of Gen X is focused on reducing debt, with 34% “completely confident” they would reach their goal. 

While Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y agreed their biggest regret was not saving enough for the future, Gen X regrets this the most (62%).

Nearly 60% of seniors say they feel they have achieved financial success and 19% percent reported they were on their way. About 20% think they may fail or are unlikely to succeed.  Forty-eight percent of Boomers said they were on their way to reaching financial success and 18% say they have already achieved it. A fifth say they are working on becoming financially successful but might not succeed and 12% feel they are far behind where they wanted to be and are unlikely to achieve financial success.

Fifty-six percent of Gen X feel they are on their way to reaching financial success, but 20% feel that while they are working at becoming financially successful, they might not succeed, and another 13% feel they are far behind their goals and are unlikely to reach them.

Gen Y was more optimistic with nearly 64 percent feeling that they are on their way to reaching financial success. Only 15% feel that while they are working at becoming financially successful, they might not succeed, and another 11% feel they are far behind where they wanted to be and are unlikely to achieve financial success.

Of the nearly 70% of respondents who say they have achieved their financial goals or are on their way, about 60% said that either living within their means or having a financial plan and sticking to it were the main reasons for their satisfaction.

Of the nearly 30% of respondents who are struggling to achieve financial success, 21% of seniors reported that medical expenses were a problem,  while 23% of boomers, 18% of Gen X and 20% of Gen Y said that their expenses are rising faster than their income.

­Fifty-one percent said that “other” factors contributed to their struggles. Of those respondents, common themes included struggling with the economy, unemployment, limited education and rising medical expenses.