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What is Gen Z’s Relationship With Money?

July 30, 2021

Generation Z is most commonly defined as anybody born between 1997 and 2015. Today, people between the ages of 15 and 24 make up almost 26% of the world’s population.

It’s worth remembering that generational categories are arbitrary. They were created by marketers, and there’s still some debate about where the hard boundaries lie. There’s also overlap between generational lines, and they don’t decisively define everybody within them.

As the older Gen Zers begin to enter the workforce, earn money and make decisions with their finances it begs the question: What is Gen Z’s relationship with money?

Generational Differences Towards Tech

Generational categories are useful when we look at the kind of environments certain age groups were born into and how that feeds into a generation’s behaviour.

Internet usage is a great reference point to determine generational differences (albeit these are trends and not fixed or objective facts).

  • Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964) saw the internet’s inception and had to adapt to its use in personal and professional settings.
  • Millennials (born 1981 – 1996) have grown up more aware of the internet, perhaps learning basic I.T. skills in school, using social media in their adolescence, and being accustomed to its use in their adult lives.
  • Gen Z (born 1997 – 2015) would never remember a world without the internet. For them, it’s always been a fundamental part of everyday life.

Tech adoption, internet usage and social media consumption helps explain Gen Z’s natural tech-literacy compared to previous generations who are typically more wary of technological advancements and digital innovations.

In fact, according to GWI, Gen Z use social media platforms more than any previous generation to stay up to date on emerging trends, make new contacts and engage with their favourite commercial brands. Douglas Adams, author of 1979’s The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, puts it best:

“Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.”

What Does Generation Z Typically Spend Their Money On?

Gen Zers are projected to make up over a third of the global workforce by 2030, and the older members of Generation Z have already entered the realm of financial independence.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one study estimated that Gen Z’s direct and indirect spending power reached up to €121 billion. Insights from Forbes predicts that Gen Z will only continue to spend money on their futures, by investing in things like:

Education

Gen Z is on track to become the most educated generation yet. They’re determined to enter higher education to get higher paying jobs later for a more comfortable life.

That said, tuition fees are higher than ever before (according to CNBC the cost of further education has increased by more than 25% in the last decade), meaning education won’t come cheap and cost savings have to be found in other areas.

Experiences

If Gen Z does tend to splurge, it’s most likely on experiences, rather than materialistic items.

Following in the footsteps of their millennial counterparts, Generation Z is set to become increasingly disillusioned with the status quo (home ownership, early retirement, child- rearing, etc.), opting for a carpe diem lifestyle.

Instead of placing value in their possessions, Gen Zers are more likely to invest in themselves and value what they can learn from experiences.

Technology

Born into the digital world, Gen Z often invests in technology. They understand that a short- term expense on essential equipment, like a good laptop, is a long-term investment that will help them in the future.

Life Essentials

Everybody spends money on essentials like clothes and utilities, but the defining feature of Gen Z is their tendency to seek out essentials that last longer. It’s all about value for money, longevity and sustainability. Even when it comes to clothing, Gen Z are investing in themselves for the long term.

Gen Z prioritises spending money on long-term investments rather than short-term thrills.
But why?

Why Are Generation Z Saving Money?

Gen Z’s minimalistic spending habits paint a clear picture of how they’re taking steps to secure a financially-stable future — which is unsurprising given the environment they grew up in.

Generation Z’s grandparents, born between the 40s and 70s (the baby boomers) grew up in a time of economic prosperity. Home ownership was within everyone's reach, and this financially secure and ambitious generation took full advantage of everything free-market capitalism had to offer.

Their children, millennials, grew up enjoying the fruits of their parents’ labour, until 2008 when the global recession turned the job and housing market on its head. This generation struggled to secure a stable job and get their foot on the property ladder, with many of them still feeling the effects to this day.

And Generation Z had front-row seats to this struggle. Gen Zers know that their financial futures are uncertain, so they’re taking steps to prepare for it. With the help of YouTube money moguls, accessible investing and a cost-saving attitude, this generation is paving the way for a more financially-stable environment.

According to a recent Nielsen study, 54% of Gen Z say they wanted to start their own company. As Gen Zers fully integrate into the world of work and finance, forward-thinking accountants must embrace and engage with the emerging habits of these ambitious entrepreneurs.

Embrace the future with INAA

Here at INAA, we value financial responsibility by holding regular international tax and audit forums. Like Gen Zers, we believe the best way to prepare for that future is by making responsible, impactful decisions that benefit everybody.

We connect accounting firms who aim to deliver quality professional services around a shared vision to make global business personal, and take personal business global. With every industry change, our collaborative association of international businesses is committed to being a part of the conversation around auditing and accounting.

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