Gen Z are leading the charge on salary transparency, but they would rather talk about their mental health and sex life than the state of their finances

February 7, 2023, 12:36 PM UTC
Woman using her smartphone on the street
Gen Z has earned a reputation for speaking up about politics, equality, and salary transparency. But there is one topic that is off-limits: finance.
DjordjeDjurdjevic—Getty Images

Members of Generation Z are notoriously open.

Born between 1997 and 2012, they have earned a reputation for being vocal about politics, equality, and salary transparency.

Given that they have grown up with social media at their fingertips, it’s not surprising they are used to shouting out about the many issues they’ve witnessed in their short life span, from George Floyd’s murder to school shootings.

But there is one topic that is apparently off-limits: finance. 

Despite hustle culture dominating their TikTok feeds, new research shows that Gen Z would rather talk about almost anything than their finances. 

Fintech company Intuit surveyed over 4,000 people from the United States and Canada about their attitudes on personal finance.

It found that around 30% of Gen Zers are comfortable discussing mental health, sexual experiences, and politics. Yet only a quarter are comfortable talking about their salary and savings.

And while 48% of the general population said that their friends know more about their sexual experiences than their debt, this jumped to 66% for 18- to 25-year-olds.

Still, they’d like the topic to become more talked about. 

Filtered finances

Although 69% of Gen Zers said they wish people were more open about personal finances, they are also more likely than other generations to lie about how much money they make or owe in order to save face.

It’s a phenomenon that the report calls “filtered finances.” 

Essentially, the generation that is used to seeing airbrushed “candids” of influencers on Instagram is more likely to similarly gloss over their success online. 

But it’s wreaking havoc with their confidence.

Heavily curated feeds are known to make people feel inadequate about their bodies and love lives, and it’s also leaving Gen Z feeling like financial failures. 

Around three-quarters of Gen Zers surveyed said that social media makes them feel less prosperous and behind in accomplishing their life goals because they see so many others around them succeeding. 

They are also twice as likely than the general population to compare themselves to others online—and when they do, 70% of Gen Zers said they wind up feeling behind. This drops to 50% for the general population.

Unsurprisingly, having arguably more access to financial information than any other generation doesn’t translate to financial transparency or success. 

Despite being able to watch money tips galore on TikTok, the survey found that Gen Z is frequently paralyzed by conflicting advice. 

As a result, they are twice as likely than the general population to not feel confident managing their money. 

But they take a short-term view on finances generally anyway. 

Gen Zers don’t live to work, they work to live

Although Gen Z is interested in exploring and learning about saving and investing, they take a much softer approach to putting money away for the future than previous generations. 

The Intuit survey illustrates that young people would rather feel more fulfilled now than save for a future that is unknown. 

In the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and turbulence in Russia, many Western countries are experiencing some form of slowdown or recession. As such, 73% of Gen Zers said that the current economy makes them hesitant to set up a long-term savings goal. Meanwhile, 66% worry they’ll never have enough money to retire.

“The economic shocks of the last few years have transformed how Gen Z views success, and this survey revealed that prosperity means something different to everyone, particularly Zoomers,” said ​Brittney Castro, Intuit consumer financial advocate.

It’s perhaps why experiences matter more than money to Gen Z, with over two-thirds claiming that they are only interested in money to sustain their other interests in life.

As a result, the incoming work generation has a very different image of what it means to prosper.

Traditional prosperity might have looked like growing a respectable career and saving up to retire early.

Gen Z disagrees. They rated work-life balance, being able to pursue hobbies, and the ability to give back as their drivers of prosperity.

“Gen Z has a different relationship to money—they want it to work for them not the other way around,” the report concluded. 

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