Driving Financial Engagement with Gen Z

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August 16, 2021

Knowing the value of being financially responsible, stable, and secure is essential for people of all ages, but for those who didn’t learn the basics of financial literacy as children, they might feel like they’re playing catch up. Couple that with the often dry nature of financial education, and teens and young adults (or “Gen Z,” as they are often called) may be resistant to engage when it comes to learning about money and budgeting.

Those on the cusp of adulthood these days belong to Generation Z, the children born between the mid-1990s and approximately 2010. Whether they’re about to begin post-secondary studies, or searching for their first job after graduation, this cohort is made up of digital natives who have grown up gripping smartphones in a world of ubiquitous high-speed connectivity.

Besides digital fluency, older Gen Z members are also influenced by the experience of having lived through the financial crash of 2008 and the ensuing recession. For many, this event looms large in their lives, given its significant impact on the fortunes of their parents, elder relatives, and acquaintances. More recently, they’ve witnessed the devastation and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, they’ve also existed in a world where housing prices soared high and continue to rise with no end in sight. 

These circumstances have combined to create a generation with some broad knowledge about the impact and importance of financial health, and unique attitudes about the right way to achieve financial stability. 

Helping this group grow and mature into financially responsible adults requires an approach as unique as Gen Z itself. Here are a few things to think about when trying to drive financial engagement with young people from this generation. 

Respect their existing knowledge, and look for ways to add to it 

It’s not uncommon for older members of Gen Z to have their own bank accounts, as well as a basic understanding of what constitutes good financial behaviour (i.e., a desire to avoid debt). Generally, they want to be engaged and educated, not talked down to. Try to position subjects in contexts that are meaningful and important to them at this time of life, whether it’s how to afford a first car, or understanding how rising inflation rates will impact the value of cash savings over time. 

Get them engaged with financial apps 

Gen Z is extremely comfortable with digital technologies, often eager to embrace new products, apps, and services. A majority of them already use mobile banking for everyday needs. Give their financial literacy a boost by introducing them to one of several apps designed for youth to start learning the ropes of budgeting, saving for the future, and how to handle taxes and investments. Some of these apps are offered through banks and other financial institutions, while others are independent.

Additionally, try to steer Gen Z youth to learn from places they already visit, such as any credible source of personal finance information available through TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, or Reddit.  

Tap into their desire to make a difference 

More than most, if not all of the generations before them, members of Gen Z tend to have a strong social conscience, and a desire to do the right thing. These youth also expect the same high ethical standards from the brands and businesses they engage with, and from the places they put their money. Whether the Gen Z person in your life is passionate about the environment or racial inequality, show them how ethical investments can help lead to improvements and advancements for the causes that matter to them, while also helping to create increased personal wealth and security.