Say hello to Gen Z, born 1995 and after.
If you share my skepticism about demographers who paint entire generations with a broad brush, you might be surprised to learn that many of the traits attributed to Gen Z do hold up under scrutiny. Both of my kids are Gen Zers, and as I watch them and their friends with a researcher’s eye, I’m noticing the tell-tale Gen Z characteristics.
Good news for all you millennial bashers
Gen Z is a different generation. Hard working and ambitious, this new generation values meaning over money, is determined to make a difference in the world and lives with a keen eye turned toward their future.
The defining event in their lives was the Great Recession.
Hitting while Gen Z was in elementary and middle school, it was formative. This recession personally touched a whopping 73 percent of Americans. Young Gen Zers watched as parents lost jobs, friends downsized to other neighborhoods, older siblings re-claimed the basement when the traditional route of college didn’t pay off, and many saw their hopes for college dwindle with their parent’s retirement.
I call them “The Practical Idealist.”
- They are self-reliant and determined. Raised by Gen Xers (the “latch key kids”) Gen Z kids have not been subjected to the helicopter parenting that Boomers gave their Millennial offspring. Thus, Gen Z tends to be more comfortable figuring things out for themselves.
- They are natural entrepreneurs. According to Sparks & Honey and a 2014 report by Mintel, 72 percent of high school students want to start their own business someday (compared to only 64 percent of college students), and their preferred profession is “social entrepreneur.” I believe this is due to growing up with business role models like Tom’s Shoes and Elon Musk. Watching their parents lose company jobs may have inspired a tendency to trust their ability rather than a corporation.
- They fear debt but will be the most college-educated generation. Influenced by the Great Recession, Gen Z stays informed about the economy and fears debt. Despite this, 71 percent of high school students say that a college degree is necessary for the career and life they want, and 66 percent plan to attend college. See what I mean about practical?
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Two industries they’ll change Banking and Higher Education.
Time will tell if I am right, but I believe this generation will be demanding customers to the fields of higher education and banking.
Gen Z has seen first hand that there are ways other than college to gain an education. Their ideal college will give them proof of ROI and plenty of practical, real-world experience.
Banks should offer ways to save money easily and be transparent with any fees. This group started saving money early and is always thinking ahead. They’ve watched their parents lose half or more of their retirement and have been quick to learn from it.
Also, they don’t trust corporations. But that’s a story for another day.