The young people set to graduate this spring will soon be facing adult financial responsibilities, like earning paychecks, paying bills and managing their debts.
But many of these graduates already have advanced degrees from the School of Hard Knocks. Over the past four years, the Class of 2011 has lived through the nation's toughest economic period since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Many students have watched their parents lose jobs — and even homes. Now it's time for this next generation to begin building a better financial foundation for themselves.
It won't be easy for many to get started; student loan debt now surpasses all credit card debt in this country. On the other hand, young Americans have access to better tools for tracking their money, from electronic spreadsheets to budgeting Web sites to mobile banking options.
In addition, many school districts are offering classes in financial literacy. For example, high school teachers and volunteers are trying to help teenagers understand the complex bills sent out by telecom companies offering "bundles" for TV-phone-internet service. But these bundled bills can be so confusing that consumers can't comparison shop for good deals.
Improving financial literacy — the ability to understand bills and financial statements — is an important step that can help young people avoid the mistakes of their parents' generation.
This week on Morning Edition, NPR will be airing Money Counts: Young Adults And Financial Literacy, a five-day series examining the relationship between young people and their finances.