Jul. 23--Andrew Buskirk is a typical 20-something.
     In other words, he's battling debt and is increasingly worried about his financial future.
     "It was just not really being ready for it," the 25-year-old said of the $4,000 in debt he accumulated through college loans, medical bills and careless use of his credit cards. "If your parents didn't prepare you for it, there was nothing in school to prepare you, (and) I had no way to pay for it."
     Young people ages 18 to 34 owe more and are growing increasingly concerned about their economic future, according to a recent study by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a research and consulting firm.
     "Young People: Living on the Edge" found that:
     --Fifty-five percent of young people listed finances as their top concern, up from 45 percent a year earlier.
     --One-third of those who carry a credit-card balance owe more than $10,000.
     --Twenty-eight percent have medical debt, and more than half have gone without health insurance at some point in the past five years.
     "There are lots of young people with multiple kinds of debt," said Anna Greenberg, senior vice president at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.
     The average college student graduates with $20,000 in debt, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Many think a job will make all their financial problems disappear.
     They're wrong.
     "They have an unrealistic idea of how much money they'll make when they go into the work force," said Kate Trombitas, assistant director at Ohio State University's Student Wellness Center. "They're not realizing what they're really going to get."
     She said students think they are going to get paid more when they start a job, and they forget that a percentage will be taken out for taxes and health insurance.
     Their loans become an afterthought. "A lot of students really couldn't tell you how much they borrowed," Trombitas said.
     OSU offers a program called Scarlet & Gray Financial in which students counsel other students, Trombitas noted.
     "When they want to talk finances, they are more comfortable talking with other students," she said. "They talk about everything from picking a credit card to 'Now I have debt.' "
     Buskirk, a Cincinnati resident, used a consolidation service and settled on a payment amount he faithfully sent every two weeks. Paying off his debt took two years.
     Since his experience, "I pay more attention to what I'm spending, and I guess I'm a little afraid of living in debt," he said. "I don't think that there is any way I could live any cheaper."
     The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner study also found that 19 percent of those surveyed have had their phone, cable or utility services cut off, and 15 percent have had something they bought repossessed or had a credit card canceled because of nonpayment.
     Columbus bankruptcy lawyer Scott Needleman said many young people's financial problems start when they arrive at college and are offered credit cards "they think they can afford, but can't."
     Seventy-six percent of college students have a credit card, 32 percent have four or more cards, and the average debt is $2,169, according to Nellie Mae, the nation's largest student-loan lender. Ninety-two percent of graduate students have a credit card, and their average debt is $8,612.
     "Most of the people I see owe $12,000 to $20,000 -- and that's not even counting student loans," Needleman said.
     The combination of having to pay a monthly student-loan bill, a minimum credit-card payment and rent and basic living expenses is impossible for many in their 20s and 30s.
     "They're dead before they even start," Needleman said.
     swartenberg@dispatch.com blammers@dispatch.com
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