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How Much Money Should I Have Saved By 18? Let’s Figure That Out.

How much money should I have saved by 18? Here’s guidance for estimating the amount of money your teenager should have saved by 18.

People graduate high school around the age of 18 (between 17-19 is typical). And just beyond that high school diploma, GED, or other slip of paper? Comes big changes and transitions.

18-year-old teen guy counting money at desk, text overlay "how much should an 18-year-old have saved?"

That’s why the age of 18 is an exciting and sometimes scary one.

I mean…it’s marked as the end of the pipeline for childhood and the onset of (young) adulthood.

And you know what? Young adulthood can be quite expensive.

Think about it – there’s generally a need for a place to live, there might be college/vocational/other education, transportation needs, etc.

There are so many different paths that your teenager can take at around this age that how much you should have in savings by 18 really boils down to what their next phase in life is going to look like.

Not only what it’s going to look like, but what their personal money responsibilities are going to be. Meaning, this is partly a conversation between parents and teenagers.

You and your teenager have to answer questions like:

  • Are you going straight to college?
  • Are you getting an apartment, and is that first apartment with or without a roommate?
  • Are you living at home, and will you be responsible for paying rent or any other costs?
  • Are you going to college, and is there on-campus housing or will you be making other arrangements?

The answer to any one of those questions can vastly change someone’s savings needs (for example, paying $200/month in rent to a teen's parents is WAY different than having to put the first month/last month/deposit down on an apartment all by themselves).

Let’s dive into this subject so that you and your teenager walk away with an estimated savings goal based on how much they’ll need for their next phase of life.

But first up? We'll look at how much money the average 18-year-old has so that you can get a range of what others are doing.

How Much Money Does the Average 18-Year-Old Have?

It's always helpful to see what others are doing – not to compare yourself or your teen against them, but to get a range of what's possible.

Unfortunately, it's a bit difficult to track down exactly how much the average 18-year-old has in their savings account. This is mostly because the data is a bit muddled – most studies lump 18-year-old savings data in with the 18-24-year-old range, the 16-18-year-old range, or the “under 35” range.

After a few hours of research, here's the best info I could find:

  • $966 – A Schwab Money 2011 study found that teens aged 16-18 years old had an average of $966 in savings. It should be noted that this was during the Recession, which was a time when people were cautiously saving more money than usual. Just a thought!
  • $1,000 – This number is from a January 2019 NerdWallet survey of people who have savings accounts (so, doesn't include any teen without one) for people aged 18-34 (yikes – that's quite a spread). Still, it's interesting that the number is very similar to what the Schwab study found.

Next up – let's talk about the conversations you'll need to have with your teen to get a better estimate of how much they should have saved by 18.

Psst: here are 12 sources of income for 18-year-olds, and some help with how to encourage kids to save money.

Parent-Teenager Conversations that Need to Happen

Parenting is all about slowly shifting responsibilities – money, and otherwise – over to your child as they get more and more capable.

To the point where one day, they become completely responsible for themselves.

Something that doesn’t get discussed nearly as often as I think it should be Money Responsibilities.

Psst: here’s my article on my M&M strategy for raising financially responsible kids, including money responsibilities and money boundaries.  

Where and when does the parent’s money stop, and the child’s money begin?

As in, what are parents responsible for paying for or contributing towards, and what is the teenager responsible for paying for or contributing towards?

As your child nears 18 – the legal age of adulthood – the shift of money responsibilities becomes even greater.

Use the following conversation topic to help you and your teen figure out their Money Responsibilities moving forward. This will help them better estimate how much money they should have saved by 18.

Psst: you'll definitely want to check out my 3 sample budgets for 18-year-olds.

  • Place to Live: Where will you live after you graduate high school, and who will be responsible for paying for that?
  • Transportation Needs: As you age, you’ll need to get yourself to lots of places (like to classes, or to a teen's first job, social events, etc.). Will you need your own car, can you borrow a car, or will you be living in a place with great public transportation? Here's an article on how to save up for a car as a teenager.
  • Education Needs: Once your teen graduates high school, will they be pursuing any further education that costs money? Who will be responsible for that, and for how much? Will your teen have any money responsibilities, such as spending money, textbook money, groceries, etc.?
  • Social Needs: Who’s job will it be to cover the costs of entertaining themselves and going out with friends once they are 18?
  • Insurance Needs: Who will cover you for health insurance and car insurance? Are you remaining on your parent’s policy, or taking out your own?
  • Handing Over Custodian Accounts: The age of 18 (in some states, 21) happens to be when certain assets might need to be handed over to your child. If you’re a custodian on an account – savings, checking, investments, 529s, etc. – then you’ll need to know how to hand over these accounts. You’ll also want to have conversations with your teenager about what money and assets will be coming their way, and your wishes for that money (remember – in many cases, the money will become theirs and they can decide how they want to use it), and talk them through what their thoughts are on the subject.

Parents: Remember – it’s all about making up your mind on money responsibilities and money boundaries, and then communicating your expectations.

Teenagers: Remember – it’s all about getting clear on what your next steps are in life, what they will cost, and talking with your parents so that you know what to expect as far as how much you’ll need to come up with yourself, how much you can count on from them, and any resources that are available for you that you don't already know about (like a custodial savings account, or 529 plan).

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of estimating how much your teen should have saved by 18.

Pssst: you might also like reading about 41 cool things to save up for teenagers and how to save money as a teen.

How Much Money Should I Have Saved By 18?

It’s now time to figure out how much money your teen should have saved by 18 for a relatively smooth transition into young adulthood. 

Pssst: Did you figure out your teen needs a job? Here are some resources you might want to check out: 

Having these conversations with your teen will hopefully give them more clarity on what their money responsibilities will be.

Your teen's upcoming money responsibilities – a combo of both what they’re choosing to do with their life next, as well as how much you, their parents, are willing to support them financially – are going to be their “northern star” for how much they should put into savings.

Psst: check out my article on what age can you start building credit.

They'll need to have money to cover:

  • Insurance Deductibles: Any insurance deductibles that they're responsible for, they’ll need to have saved up in an emergency fund. That’s not their entire emergency fund, but it’s part of what they should have to get started. For example, if you guys have decided they’re responsible for their auto and health insurance deductibles, and your teen found out they have a $350 hospital deductible and a $500 auto deductible to meet, then they’d want to have $850 as part of their savings just to cover these.
  • Deposits: They’ve potentially got some deposits coming up they'll need to pay. For example, your teen could have an apartment deposit (usually this is the same as one months’ rent), or deposits due for freshman year in college, a deposit to start their own smartphone plan (especially if they don’t have established credit), etc.
  • Emergencies: Unless your teen wants to end up right back on their parent’s couch (or, in their old bedroom), they’ll need some sort of money to fall back on above and beyond what they need to get that next phase started. That means if your teen needs $5,500 to get their first apartment, textbooks, and insurance deductibles, then they'll need more than $5,500 in an emergency fund. It’s money that will just sit there until they need it. And while you can hope that they won’t, chances are good that they will. Just ask us parents!

To find an estimate of your teen's particular number, they need to add up what they’ll need from each of the above categories.

Let me give you some examples:

Note: when your teen is figuring out how much to save, remember what they are NOT able to cover out of their savings. In other words, in the examples above, there is no spending room for things like going out with friends on the weekend, or groceries. These are also teen expenses that they’ll possibly need to cover, and it’ll have to come from their paychecks.

Example #1: A Teen Going to College, Living in a Dorm

Let’s say you are going to be going to college and living in a dorm. You’ve got a pile of scholarships, grants, and loans that will pay for your tuition + room and board, and your parents are covering around $550/month in tuition (this is approximately what my parents and I did).

Your Money Responsibilities Include:

  • Textbooks each semester (approximately $500)
  • College dorm room deposit ($50)
  • Car Insurance each month ($60)
  • Car deductible in the event of an accident ($500)

How Much Should I Have Saved by 18?

In this case, you would want to have (at a minimum) $1,220 saved up. That doesn’t include any sort of emergency fund (unless you count the car deductible as part of your emergency fund), so that’s why I say this is your minimum.

By saving up $1,220 by the time you’re 18 and/or graduate high school, you’ll ensure you can pay your first-semester textbooks (you’ll need to find a teen job for winter break or on weekends to save up for next semester’s), you can put down your dorm room deposit, you can pay 3 months of your car insurance – giving you a buffer in case you can’t find work during the semester or don’t want to – and you can pay your car deductible in the even that you get into an accident.

Example #2: A Teen Living at Home, with a Full-Time Job

You and your parents have talked about the new rules and privileges now that you’re 18, graduating high school, and deciding to live at home to work and save your money.

Your Money Responsibilities Include:

  • Rent (approximately $200)
  • Car Insurance each month ($60)
  • Smartphone plan ($60)
  • Health Insurance hospital deductible ($250)
  • Car deductible in the event of an accident ($500)

How Much Should I Have Saved by 18?

In this case, you’d want to have an estimated $1,220 in savings by the time you’re 18 and starting this arrangement.

This accounts for three months’ worth of rent, car insurance payments, and a smartphone plan – because it might take you a while to find a job.

Example #3: A Teen Moving Out into an Apartment, with a Roommate

You have a first job out of high school lined up, and you’ve decided to get a first apartment with a friend as your roommate.

Your Money Responsibilities Include:

  • Half of the Rent ($450)
  • Groceries ($250)
  • Half of the Utilities – water, trash, electricity, etc. ($100)
  • Half internet/cable ($50)
  • Car Insurance each month ($60)
  • Gas ($70)
  • Smartphone plan ($60)
  • Health insurance premiums ($200)
  • Half the apartment deposit, plus half of the first/last month’s rent ($1,350)
  • Health Insurance hospital deductible ($250)
  • Car deductible in the event of an accident ($500)

How Much Should I Have Saved by 18?

group of teen girls talking, text overlay "teen talk: how much should money should I have saved by 18?"

In this case, you’d want to have an estimated $6,270 in savings/emergency savings by the time you’re 18 and starting this arrangement.

Notice how I pointed out the emergency fund, here? In the other two examples, you’re protected to some extent by the circumstances you’re in (either living at home with your parents or living on campus at college with room/board paid for with scholarships/loans/grants). But in this example, it’s all you.

You will absolutely need an emergency fund saved up of at least a few months to start with (6 months is typical advice, though I know you’re just getting started and that would be an enormous amount to have saved by 18 – I calculated your savings amount needed with 3 months buffer on your monthly bills).

Psst: here are 11 valuable teenage budgeting tips.

That way if you lose your job (I lost my first job out of college just one year in!), or if something else happens, your default is not to go live at home with your parents. Instead, you can take the money from your savings while you, temporarily, get back on your feet.

And then you need to pay your emergency savings back so that it’s there the next time you need it.

You and your teen now know the conversations you need to have in order to estimate their next-step living costs, how to figure out how much to have in savings by age 18, and also three example scenarios to help you both picture what their next step in life might look like.

Use all this information to come up with how much to shoot for in your teen's savings account by the age of 18. Then, check out my teen savings resources to figure out HOW to actually save up that amount of money (you'll also need to check out how to budget as a teen). Do that? And your teen's got a plan with action steps.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Her money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money,, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Amanda is the founder and CEO of Frugal Confessions, LLC. Read more here or on LinkedIn.