TD Ameritrade surveyed teenagers (14-19) and adults (20-59) on certain savings/spending patterns. Saving for post secondary education is the primary goal for teens today. 62% of teens stated that they save money to pay for this as opposed to only 40% of the adults when they were young.
Some analysis I have read on this survey indicates pleasant surprise that young adults today are better planning for their futures. However, I think that given the huge increase in education costs today versus 20 years ago, you have to do some saving whether you wish to or not. Or, whether you understand financial planning or not. Also, the percentage of people attending post secondary institutes is higher now than 20 years ago (per the National Center for Education Statistics, high school graduates who immediately enrolled in college was 68.6% in 2005, 57.7% in 1985, 50.9% in 1965). For both these reasons, you would expect a higher percentage of teens to do some saving for post secondary as compared to their parents, regardless of their financial planning acumen.
What I did find interesting was that parents today seem to provide more monetary support to their children in respect of transportation and credit cards. This indicates to me that teens perhaps do need some help with their budgeting skills as parents will not be around forever to finance deficits.
For a look at the survey findings and to get a plug from TD Ameritrade on saving, check it out here.