On The Cover September 2016 Special Section

Wary Wallets, Full Hearts: The Financial Face Of Generation Z


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Much has been written on the spending habits and money perspectives of millennials, or Generation Y. Hard on their heels is Generation Z, born from the mid-’90s to now. They may be young, but this cohort’s presence is projected to be 40 percent of the population by 2020. As marketers, employers and professional service providers, we should get to know how members of Gen Z think and their financial attitudes.

BOOTS ON THE GROUND
Products of the Great Recession, hometurf terrorism and the merciless media coverage of “literally” everything, Generation Z’s may live in the cloud but they are firmly grounded in reality, especially when budgeting money. They’ve seen their Gen X parents and millennial cousins struggle to make ends meet, saddled with college loans and falling stocks. They’ve seen banks kick loved ones out of their homes and then fold into each other. They’re having none of the glory-of-the-’80s materialism that became Gen X’s downfall. Gen Z is real, gritty and prepared to hunker down.

TO MARKET, TO MARKET
Z’s crowdsource their buying decisions. They research online for testimony, narrowing down choices through social proof. And by online, I mean the nearest social media app they actually have on their phone (Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn are “for old people”). YouTube, the choice search engine of Z’s, is where you want to be looking good when they look for you. Snapchat, while a bit new, is also becoming a platform on which Z’s rely for purchasing decisions. Twitter still works for Z’s, too.

NOT YOUR GRANDPA’S PORTFOLIO… SORT OF
Too young to have documented investment strategies yet, Gen Z is learning at the knee of millennials, for better or worse. As a result of their childhood fiscal environment, Z’s and Y’s are extremely conservative. But unlike grandpa, they invest online rather than face-to-face, using robo-advisors like Wealthfront and Betterment. Millennials invest in what they know: Apple, Google and Twitter, using easy investing apps like Stash and Robinhood to help them choose funds. But, the most startling find is that up to 80 percent are choosing to save their money instead of investing it. More education and financial mentorship is needed to influence millennials and Gen Z’s to leverage their financial longevity.

GOT HEART?
Possibly not to the extent that a Z does. We all care about the environment and helping a friend raise money to battle cancer, but these young people care as a way of life. Thanks to crowdfunding, 26 percent of Generation Z have fundraised for a cause, and 32 percent have put their own allowance toward charity. With constant global connections to friends, news and a multitude of views, Z’s feel tragedies and triumphs deeper and are highly compelled to do something when the rest of us might simply “Like” and keep scrolling. Members of Generation Z have created a cancer-detecting test (Jack Andraka, at age 15), fought against hunger (Braeden Mannering, at age 11) and won a Nobel Peace Prize (Malala Yousafzai, at age 17). This cohort puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to making a difference. Be sure your company shows similar values and actions.

WILL WORK FOR HAPPINESS
Gen Z’s harbor no illusions about going to college and getting a job. With a huge wariness of student loans (while 75 percent have no college savings plan), they’ll either skip college to avoid being in debt for half their careers or they’ll only go after a degree in something that truly makes them tick. Custom-designed, hands-on majors that prepare them for in-demand jobs (such as computer sciences, environmental sciences, financial consulting and entrepreneurship) are what Gen Z expects on their college journey. What makes Z’s happy is creating better lives for others, improving ecological sustainability and running their own businesses. Tailoring your higher education marketing approach to this wave will keep you ahead in attracting talented and motivated students.

Generation Z’s top priorities after graduation are in this order: becoming financially independent, getting their dream job and getting married. Real estate professionals, be prepared to wait for this generation to hit their mid-30s before being interested in buying their first homes. Generation Z is honest, authentic, caring and expert at social media. So if you are, too, you’ll earn their respect and possibly their business.

 

Gen X’er KALEY SHORTER considers herself something of an expert on Generation Z, currently raising two of them. Aligning Parisleaf’s goals and personality with the mysterious inner-workings of its marketing CRM, Kaley pulls it off in time for dinner with the family, disc golf and rocking out on stage at the piano.

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