How Gen Z has been forced to rethink personal finance - from money diaries to hustle culture

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Despite ever rising living costs, Gen Zs are proving to be extremely financially savvy - so how do they balance their budgets?

With the explosion of the digital world over the past 25 years, we’ve seen society swerve in a whole new direction at an alarming speed.

This has coincided with a time of price hikes, as the housing market soars, rents rise and even the cost of a 10p Freddo bar is now 25p.

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With an ever evolving economy, the younger generation adapts to mirror it. But has that led to a different perspective in how Gen Z perceive and understand money?

The Gen Z perspective on money

Gen Z is the newest coherent generation, with a general consensus that Gen Z encompasses anyone born from 1997- 2012 - making them between 9 and 24 years old.

According to a Natwest report, 31% of 18-24 year olds surveyed said they did not feel financially secure, from having enough money to live comfortably, to affording essential living payments.

However, 53% of 18-24 year olds surveyed said they would feel embarrassed to ask any parents or family to borrow money.

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This has an effect on their mental wellbeing, with just under a third (31%) also saying they often feel anxious or depressed about their financial status, and 26% admitting that they make themselves appear more financially secure to their family and friends.

This report suggests a high level of financial anxiety among this demographic, and its even spread to their parents, with a third (32%) of adults aged 45-54 becoming increasingly worried about their children’s welfare.

Ali Bukhari, 19, is a student at a London University. On the topic of Gen Z’s perspective of money, he thinks the focus is a direct result of circumstances. “I’d say Gen Z definitely draws a lot more emphasis to money just because of how expensive things have gone,” he says.

“The generations before us - if you looked at how they got paid, and how it was in proportion to house prices, it was a lot more affordable. So Gen Z has a different perception of money just because of how less affordable it is to sustain a healthy lifestyle today.

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“This generation has a lot more emphasis on financial literacy as well.”

The influence of money diaries

With the boom of social media, we have also seen a shift into digital journalism and a larger time spent on the internet.

Money diaries is a subsection of topics popularised by sites like Refinery29 to stimulate the conversation around personal finance - the day-to-day of how people with varying budgets spend and save their cash.

Its popularity on social media shows that people are much more open and curious about money matters than they perhaps used to be.

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Money diaries are now a popular genre across the media, with big names like The Guardian, Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph dedicating sections of their websites to discuss all things financial.

A report from Barclays by Hirral Patel revealed Gen Z are more tech innate and value this financial knowledge - with labels that include “Entrepreneurial’’ and “Financially Conservative”.

Social media is providing a catalogue of financial hustles and ideas, with articles and videos encouraging more financial literacy than the Natwest report originally depicts. This move online has shaken up the way we speak about money, and we can only observe the effects as Gen Z lives it.

Has Covid changed the game?

Covid-19 has had a hurricane-like effect on ‘everyday’ life, resulting in many Gen Zs rapidly adapting to a less conventional approach to the job market in order to gain a steady stream of income.

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Bukhari says: “Covid was definitely a catalyst for hustle culture.. because there was so much uncertainty, people were trying to find guaranteed ways of making money by learning different loopholes, because they were forced to be at home. So side hustles emerged because people want multiple streams of income.

“I see students at uni going through their normal days like usual but on the side, they’ll be investing crazy amounts into the stock market. It’s very digitally driven as well.

“Everyone’s trying to figure out different ways of making money, and the most satisfactory way is one which doesn’t require a lot of your time. I feel like that’s why a lot of people, especially for my generation, invest because they still want to live and have a social life but work as little as possible.”

True to his words, Bukhari has developed a side hustle too: “I’ve got a cousin who owns a car dealership, so I invest in cars. I’ll make the initial investment and get the profits back when he sells it.

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“That’s what I need to do just to maintain my lifestyle as a uni student in London”.

As the first generation to have really grown up with the internet, Gen Zs have developed an extraordinary adaptability and game-plan to tackle the soaring costs of modern life. Their perspective of money shifts constantly to match the changing economy, and they’ve shown that the traditional 9-5 may be a thing of the past.

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