Gen Z is the most materialistic living generation

September 14, 2022, 7:26 PM UTC
Gen Z content creator records content on mobile phone.
The ability to afford material goods is motivating Gen Z to achieve financial success more than any other generation.
Xavier Lorenzo—Getty Images

In a generational riff on a Madonna classic, “We are living in a material world, and Gen Z is a material girl.”

The desire to easily afford material goods is driving 45% of the generation to achieve financial success, according to Bank of America’s new Better Money Habits report that surveyed over 1,000 adults. They’re the generation most likely to feel this way—only 34% of millennials and 30% of Gen X and boomers each feel similarly.

Dreaming of being able to own a fancy sports car or designer handbag is partly emblematic of the idealistic twentysomething life stage, in which typically broke young adults envision a future rich life. But it’s also a sign of how much Gen Z is struggling in today’s economy—when affording the necessities of life like rent and food is already so out of reach, being able to one day have enough discretionary income to buy the wants of life seems like a pipe dream.

With the eldest of Gen Z just beginning their careers, many are on entry-level salaries. Most, still in school, are likely earning no salary at all. It means that record-high inflation has hit the generation harder than older individuals who have been saving for years.

The majority of Gen Zers (73%) told Bank of America that the economic environment has made it challenging to save, with many citing the economy and inflation as a top financial stressor. More than half of Gen Zers (59%) said that inflation made it more difficult to save for future financial milestones. The soaring cost of housing and rent is a particular pain point, with 40% saying it’s dampened their ability to afford day-to-day necessities. 

And 43% said inflation made paying down debt harder. Almost half of the generation has debt, making it a struggle to prepare for long-term goals such as investing, creating an emergency fund, or saving for retirement. They want to pay it off so badly that, per the report, they would give up pizza and chocolate for a year or their cell phone for a month.

Instead, they’re being more practical about their economic challenges: Three-fourths are taking on side gigs to earn extra cash and more than one-third are considering changing careers in order to manage their financial worries. It explains why Gen Z is job-hopping at much higher rates than other generations, with a better salary the top motivator.

But it’s not just dreams of being able to buy luxury goods fueling their quest for money. Three-quarters of Gen Zers just want to achieve “financial peace of mind,” per the Bank of America report.

They’re determined to reach their financial goals: Two-thirds are actively saving for the future, and 58% are feeling financially optimistic. Maybe one day they’ll be able to treat themselves to a house or, in the meantime, tide themselves over with thrifted baby tees.

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