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Gen X, Y and Z: changing attitudes to money and finance

Be honest, do you really know the differences between Gen X, Y and Z? 

The lines between these generations often get blurred, with the label ‘millennial’ being used as broadly as ‘baby boomer’ once was. 

When it comes to personal finance however, the generations each tell a different story with some fascinating key takeaways.

We take a closer look at Gen X, Y and Z money and personal finances below. 

Gen Z, money and more

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Let’s start with Gen X, the MTV generation

Born between 1965 and 1980, this is the generation who saw the dawn of the internet, the birth of mobile phones, ATM machines and credit card debt. 

Now, it’s this generation who are the most likely to face financial hardship in retirement.  

A significant proportion of Generation Xers juggle competing financial priorities including caring, debts and mortgages with volatile incomes, made even worse since the Covid 19 pandemic.

Research from the International Longevity Centre UK indicates that nearly one in three are at risk of reaching retirement with inadequate incomes. 

In fact, Unbiased research commissioned in April 2022 reveals that 53% fear they won’t have enough income to survive financially when they stop working.

What’s more, 63% of Brits have no idea what a pension pot should look like when it comes to funding the kind of retirement they’d like. 

For Generation X, the financial focus is most definitely on saving and planning for retirement. 

What about Gen Y? 

This generation, born between 1981 and 1996 is best known as the millennial generation.

Digital first and social media savvy, this generation has embraced online banking but is lacking financial education. Typically, at age 30 their income is lower than in previous generations and they struggle to escape the rental trap in a rocketing property market

The rise of the portfolio career and gig economy is also having a financial impact on Gen Y, with millennials facing a pension gap if they don’t take action to save for their retirement.

Greater financial instability has also been driven by student debt (loans were first introduced in 1998) which has jumped from an average of £10,000 in 2007 to £32,000 in 2017 according to figures from Statista

Interestingly, this generation is also the first to view investing in a different way. The rise in start-ups, crowdfunding and online apps specialising in investments means that a growing number of millennials are exploring different ways of financial planning. 

Planning is the key word here and Generation Y wants a structured approach to financial planning, whether it’s saving for a big ticket item or consolidating their debts

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Who are Gen Z? 

For those born during 1997-2012, it’s all about Generation Z. These are the true digital and social media natives who have never known a landscape without either. 

Largely because Gen Z uses social media as a key source of news and as a means to mobilise, this is a generation powered by cause and belief.

From climate change action to gender identity, Gen Z carries a lot of responsibility from previous generations and are seen to be the generation who will make fundamental decisions for the future of society. 

Gen Z’s relationship with money is also very different. Whilst Gen X come from a cash-first world, millennials have seen a transition from cash to chip and pin and now Gen Z are fast moving to a contactless, cashless society

As such, Gen Z are used to online data and have more sophisticated digital financial expectations such as spending analytics.

Research by Zopa Money found that 70% of Gen Z check their balance every day and that over a third had more than £1,000 saved, making them the least likely of the generations to take on consumer debt. 

These more sophisticated expectations and goals are key drivers for how Gen Z will manage their money and plan for their future. 

From Gen X through to Z, the rules of financial planning have certainly shifted and this goes some way to explaining the rise in financial coaching.

Like a personal trainer for your money, financial coaches take a holistic view of your money and work with you to plan your financial goals and future. 

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About the author
Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.