EY put out a press release on the results of its 2023 Gen Z Segmentation study yesterday and it’s not good. Less than a third (31%) of those born between 1997 and 2007 surveyed feel financially secure, more than half (52%) said they are very or extremely worried about not having enough money. Mind you EY surveyed only 1500 of the 2.56 billion people who make up Gen Z for this particular project. Said EY, the survey aimed to track Gen Z’s personal and professional interests and outlook on mental health, trust, technology, career and lifestyle ambitions.
“Right now, Gen Z is particularly important as the newest generation of consumers, employees and citizens that will dramatically impact businesses today and into the future,” said Marcie Merriman, EY Americas Cultural Insights & Customer Strategy Leader. “Our research has consistently found that mental health is an ongoing challenge for Gen Z. As the generation moves into our prime workforce and consumer markets, several shifts are happening simultaneously. The oldest Gen Z are aging out of their parents’ health care plans this year, and they are feeling the impact of financial independence amid economic uncertainty. These factors are shaping their views of work and life and what success looks like.”
Placing importance on making money has consistently increased year-over-year, 46% of respondents said it was a top priority in the 2023 survey compared with 32% in 2021 and 38% in 2019.
Among the financial fears for Gen Z are (quoted directly from EY’s press release and the report):
- More than a third (39%) said they are very or extremely stressed or worried about making the wrong choices with their money.
- 69% rate their current financial situation as only “fair” or worse, with 32% rating their current finances as poor or very poor.
- Gen Z normalizes working multiple jobs to hedge their bets against the future by preparing well now. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Gen Z were employed in a part-time or full-time job last year, while 56% earned money from freelance or “side hustle” work. Moreover, 39% of Gen Z earned money working both a job and a side hustle. This pragmatic need to get ahead by whatever means necessary is changing how they view work, how they approach savings, and when and how they choose to spend their money.
- While they are concerned about having enough money, they are less focused on having a lot. Compared to millennials at a similar age, Gen Z teens in 2021 were less likely to believe that they will become rich in the future (63% and 51%, respectively).
To that last point, it’s not that they are less focused on having a lot, it’s that they’ve seen what happened to millennials and have accepted their fate. They figured out earlier than we did that things like home ownership and being able to provide for a family on a single income are relics of the past except for a select few in well-paid careers.
Huh, things must have changed drastically between 2021 and now because this is how this survey looked the last time EY did it:
They tried to pull this crap on millennials too, claiming we valued purpose above all else when we started hitting the job market in the early 2000s and continuing to suggest it’s a critical motivator for us today. Purpose is nice but let’s be real, if it was that important, we’d all be working at non-profits.
Also from the 2021 report:
Again, it is more likely anxiety-riddled Gen Z is too worried about their current financial situation and how that relates to the economy and job market to fantasize about making a lot of money. Here’s where they’re at in 2023:
“With inflation surging to its highest level since the early 1980s, Gen Z is experiencing unprecedented prices increased against most goods and services categories, and wage growth is only now starting to outpace inflation, so that wages adjusted for inflation have essentially stagnated over the past four years,” said Gregory Daco, EY-Parthenon Chief Economist, Strategy and Transactions.
Understandably, Zoomers are anxious in general. Aren’t we all. The 2019 and 2021 surveys called out stress and anxiety as “a hallmark of this generation,” now it’s even higher.
Almost half of Gen Z (47%) respondents report excessive anxiety or worry that is difficult to control on an ongoing basis. Said EY in the 2021 survey [PDF]:
They live in a constant state of overwhelm. They are admittedly high-stress, anxiety-ridden and untrusting of the world around them.
Now, 54% of Gen Z said they were moderately, very or extremely worried across a variety of topics, up from 46% in 2021 and 30% in 2019.
This is depressing, I’m gonna wrap it up. You can read the full report here (PDF).