Members of the baby boom generation are likely to bemoan many of the choices today’s young adults make. They don’t realize that people growing up today face a far different economic reality than they did.
Many of today’s generations have seen their wealth drop over the past few decades, meaning they have to make difficult decisions. Here are five unique money habits of millennials and Gen Z and why they exist.
1. They’re Not Making Work Their Whole Life
The hustle-and-grind culture used to make people brag, “I worked 80 hours last week.” Today’s millennials and Gen Zers know that’s a recipe for health problems. Research indicates that productivity drops off and health problems start after working 39 hours a week, with women bearing the brunt of burnout.
Plus, they recognize that all that work will likely put them in an early grave for nothing. They see many of today’s seniors working well into retirement. Earlier generations had far more economic advantages than they ever will and their chances for retirement are slim. They see no reason to rush to the finish line — there simply isn’t one to reach any longer.
2. They’re Not Buying Homes
One of the first steps in buying a home is determining what you can afford — which is nothing for many in the millennial and Gen Z generations. Although homeownership used to represent the American dream and the typical way of building wealth, fewer than 50% of today’s younger generations own property. Most never will, given the dismal reality of wage stagnation.
Someone struggling to get by on $20 an hour can’t even afford rent in many locations without spending more than half of their paycheck on housing. High rents and low wages mean there’s nothing left over at month’s end to save for a downpayment. It’s better to direct that money elsewhere.
3. They’re Not Having Kids
Not having children doesn’t mean this generation is selfish — quite the opposite. Many of them intentionally choose not to bring children into a world where they’ll meet little more than suffering.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic left many children without their caregivers, with the foster care system ill-prepared to meet this new demand. Worse, many of those affected are racial and ethnic minorities, communities already at risk from poorer education and lower socioeconomic status.
Furthermore, climate change remains a pressing reality that the world’s leaders aren’t doing nearly enough to address. Up to 300 million people could find themselves displaced if things continue unabated — if they survive the storms, disasters, and resulting upheaval. Many would-be parents refuse to bring children into such a reality.
4. They Prefer Experiences to Material Things
Members of the baby boomer generation might have relished a spa getaway gift certificate for their birthday or graduation. Today’s millennials and Gen Z representatives would probably prefer gifts that let them DIY at home while spending a self-care day with their BFF.
Today’s generations prefer to spend what money they have on experiences, not material gifts. Many of them can scarcely afford to take a day off work without coming up short on rent, so they value their time far more than glitzy baubles.
5. They Spend According to Their Values
Having less money to spend also makes these generations savvier. Millennials and Gen Zers understand that capitalistic societies revolve around the almighty dollar — so they use theirs at companies that support their values.
These generations would rather reinvent new outfits from old clothes than drop their hard-earned dimes on designer duds manufactured in an overseas sweatshop. They’ll choose happy hour establishments that feature locally sourced foods and provide compostable containers over cookie-cutter chains.
Today’s generations face a far different economic reality than their parents did. Is it any wonder that their money habits differ?
Understanding these five unique money habits brings the problems in today’s society into stark focus. Will leaders take note of these changes and what they mean for humanity’s future?