Were you born between 1997 and 2012? You’re part of Gen Z, and as of 2023 your age group accounts for nearly 27% of the U.S. population and is the fastest-growing generation. Your cohort is expected to attain significant spending power by 2026. Considered digital natives, Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with widespread use of the internet, making you the most tech-savvy population globally. This carries over to how you choose to bank, with 99% of Gen Z reportedly using mobile banking apps.
With ages ranging from pre-teens to mid-twenties, Gen Zers span various stages of financial journeys. Some of you are in middle school and some of you are even moving on from your entry-level positions in the corporate world. So, your financial needs are not universal even amongst yourselves. You’ve lived through economic highs and lows, and know the importance of money. According to Bankrate, 82% of Gen Zers report that money is a significant source of stress. But, there are ways to counteract that, and it starts with financial education.
One advantage your generation has is the ability to get an early start on building your savings to set yourself up for financial success. When it comes to managing money, the power of time is an important aspect. As you start your first part-time job, head off to college, or enter the full-time workforce, you are just getting your first opportunity to save. Now is the perfect time to learn how to manage money – and get ahead of the game!
Establishing Healthy Financial Habits
If you start saving money now, that is a habit that you will carry with you throughout your life. For every dollar you get, get into the habit of saving a portion. If you’re young and not yet supporting yourself financially, you can save a bigger portion of any money you get!
It’s also important to build a financial footprint with a bank when you’re young. When you’re a kid, you can probably make due by keeping cash in a special spot in your bedroom. But as you get older and have more money, you’ll want to keep your money in an account at a bank. You can also earn interest on your savings! But always do your research to learn the various types of accounts banks offer. Some charge fees if you don’t keep a minimum balance, which may be cost prohibitive to you. At Milli, we’re proud not to charge fees for any reason with our accounts!
Tips to Set Yourself Up for Success
Financial literacy and money management skills are critical for success and will help establish strong lifelong habits. From learning to budget to saving for the future, here are five tips to get started on the road to financial success.
Write Down Your Needs vs. Your Wants
It’s easy to spend money. What’s challenging is spending money wisely. One way to help you do this is to separate your wants from your needs and try to only spend money primarily on your needs. The trick is to build discipline around optional spending so that way when you do have bills, you already have valuable self-control.
For this exercise, consider both your upcoming needs and wants and write them down in separate columns.
When evaluating the things you want, ask yourself if you’ll be happy with the purchase a few months from now, and if you would rather save that money for a future purchase. For example, maybe you want to buy a fresh pair of sneakers but also want to buy tickets to the next Harry Styles tour. If you buy the sneakers now, will you be able to buy the concert tickets when they go on sale? Will you enjoy the sneakers or concert more?
Building your financial savviness first starts with making sure you can cover your needs, then knowing how to best use the leftover money to meet your wants.
By setting money aside for the future when you first start making money, you can start a lifetime of healthy savings habits. You brush your teeth at least twice daily and don’t even think about it because it has become a healthy habit. So now, when you have an income, no matter how big or small, put some away for the future. Whether it’s a birthday gift or cash from babysitting, carve out some for the future. If you have no ongoing bills, try to save half – because in the future, it’s likely that around half (or more) of your paycheck will go towards your bills. If you have bills, check out the next section for budgeting tips.
It’s essential to separate your money. At a minimum, you should have two accounts – checking and savings. Checking is for money you’ll be spending in the short term, and savings is for money you are holding onto for future needs. If you have it all in just one account, it’s tempting to spend money that you otherwise would have saved. You can keep the checking and savings accounts together at the same bank so it’s easy to transfer money between the accounts as needed.
Create and Stick to a Budget
Creating and maintaining a monthly budget is one of the easiest habits to set yourself up for financial success. The older you get, chances are, the more costs you will be covering for yourself – but understanding the basics is helpful even if you’re not yet paying bills, or only covering a portion of your expenses.
To get started, create a list of all the things you have to spend money on, and then subtract that from your income. From the remaining balance, choose a percentage to put into savings. Then, whatever is left is your spending money. This is commonly referred to as “paying yourself first,” and means prioritizing your savings goals over your optional spending. Once your budget is in place, make sure you revisit it on a regular basis to ensure it is up-to-date with whatever expenses are recurring in your life.
Be Cautious with Credit Cards
Credit is a powerful and often necessary thing for being able to make bigger purchases like cars and homes. But, it’s important to be methodical when using any type of loan, like a credit card. A 2023 report found Gen Z had on average over $2,700 in credit card debt. It also found Gen Z takes on debt at the fastest pace of all generations.
When taking out and paying back any form of debt, it’s important to do your research to find the best option and rate for you. As a general rule of thumb, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Take Time to Learn About Money
Educating yourself on the financial world is incredibly important, and may not be something you learn about at school. Being financially confident will help you make informed financial decisions throughout your life, and hopefully avoid stress around money.
Hopefully, you can learn the basics about money from a trusted adult like a family member, teacher, or a friend’s parent. Whether or not you have a financially savvy adult in your life, also take advantage of resources like books, blog posts, podcasts, and instructional videos. Check out physical or audiobooks from your local library for free.
Your own personal accounts are great resources to help you better understand money. A bank’s mobile app is a great tool that allows you to monitor your accounts in real-time to see how your saving and spending behaviors are trending.
Why should Gen Z focus on saving money now?
Gen Z – when it comes to building your financial security, you have the advantage of time on your side! It’s important to get started with strong financial habits now so that money is a tool to help you live your life, not something that controls you.
You may be thinking that you can worry about it when you’re older, but remember – you can never go back in time and save more! When you ask people older than you what their most significant financial regret is, many will tell you that they wished they had started getting serious about money much earlier. Researchers from the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania studied financial regret in people aged 50 and older and found that 57% of the survey respondents wished they saved more money. So, it’s important to start learning how to strike the balance between spending to enjoy the present while saving for the future.
Taking the time now to learn how to prioritize saving, spend effectively, use a bank account, and other money fundamentals will set you up for success later. Because believe it or not, as you get older, there will only be more life events that involve money, and more of it! Do your future self a favor and make some time to learn something new about money every week or month. You’ll thank yourself when you’re older with no money regrets!
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