Why Generation Z Needs Financial Literacy

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
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As Americans are working their hardest to combat the effects of inflation and other economic stress factors, it’s no surprise that Generation Z is having a financial freak-out.

For college students, recent grads, and every other young adult getting settled into the “real world”, paying higher amounts than just a few years ago on everything from groceries to gasoline to rent does not feel normal even if it’s what we’re attempting to get used to. Bear in mind that I’m saying all these things in my own observation and experience as someone in the age group.

When it comes to that anxiety, there are a few factors, with slight variance depending on how old a Generation Z’er is, which is considered those born from 1997 to 2012, according to Beresford Research. You’ll notice that for many in the earlier half of Gen Z that a key part of their childhood was defined by post-9/11 anxiety and the Great Recession. If someone’s parents struggled during the recession and were old enough to even vaguely remember the consequences of economic hardship, it’s no wonder why we’ve turned into an incredibly worried bunch. On the flip side, if their parents have done well for themselves, there’s an added pressure to either maintain their social class or move upward. This pressure is not unique to Generation Z, and it’s in fact become a hallmark of entrepreneurial countries like the United States.

However, it’s worth noting that there are some contrasting statistics on the matter. A Pew Research Center poll from 2021 said that 68 percent of Americans believe that “children will be worse off financially than their parents.” That’s not comforting. A poll among just Generation Z painted a seemingly brighter light, but I’m not sure how much I buy it beyond youthful innocence, because it strikes a different tone from myself and my peers. A Morning Consult survey from November 2022 said that 38 percent of Americans between 13 and 25 believe they will do better moneywise than their parents, but 19 percent think they’ll be worse off and 43 percent say they will be on the same level financially. I’m curious as to what the responses looked like for those who were 18-25 and 22-25.

Regardless of one’s outlook, the fact of the matter is that financial literacy is generally not taught in schools. There’s a valid debate on whether or not it should, but it has to come from somewhere. Parents could be the right people to teach it, but not always, especially depending on the parent’s own financial background. Otherwise, a young person’s financial knowledge is going to be coming from TikTok or Instagram Reels, and you better hope that Dave Ramsey or another legitimate financial advisor is showing up on your child’s feed if that’s where the information is coming from.

The fact of the matter is that, like clockwork, there’s going to be a lot more negative headlines about Generation Z in the coming years, as older generations try to “figure us out” and make predictions. It’s an American tradition to have animosity to the generations older and younger than us. Unfortunately, the conversation about what the next generation can achieve, or not achieve, tends to lack grace. It falls into the pit of generalizations as opposed to a nuanced discussion about how society and government alike can make life easier and more prosperous for tomorrow’s leaders.



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