And they're not just worried about themselves; 7 out of 10 fret about their parents' finances. About 20 percent saw a parent laid off during the past year and a half, according to the AP-Viacom study, conducted in partnership with Stanford University.
Money troubles are steering the course of young lives. A majority say finances were a key factor in deciding whether to continue their educations past high school and, if they did, which college to attend, and what kind of career to seek.
Lucas Ward couldn't keep up with the tuition in community college, despite working three jobs at once — at a gas station, a hotel and a restaurant in scenic and touristy Hood River, Ore.
With youthful pluck, he found opportunity elsewhere.
Ward fell into a job doing a bit of everything for a small outdoor clothing company, and the business took off. The housing collapse that busted so many baby boomers made prices suddenly affordable, so Ward bought a home. At 23, he's about to invest in a second house and building his own clothing company.
"A lot of stuff in the news is telling everyone that they can't, that the economy is crumbling and there's no room for anyone to do anything," Ward said. "But I'm watching that being disproven every day."
The AP-Viacom telephone survey of 1,104 adults ages 18-24 was conducted Feb. 18-March 6 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Stanford University's participation in this project was made possible by a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
AP writer Stacy A. Anderson, AP Polling Director Trevor Tompson, Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
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