Is Gen Z Planning To Make the Smartest Money Moves of Any Generation in 2024?

Gen Z is prioritizing money goals in 2024, but is anyone else?
Updated June 6, 2024
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New studies show how different generations treat their finances as the clock ticks toward a new year. The recent American Express survey unveils a fascinating trend: millennials and Gen Z prioritize financial goals as their top New Year's resolutions in 2024. This prompts an exploration into the specifics of Gen Z's financial aspirations, a comparative analysis with millennials, and a glimpse into the historical financial behaviors of older generations.

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The rise of financial priorities in 2024: A common thread across generations

The survey, capturing insights from over 1,800 individuals born between 1981 and 2012, highlights a shared sentiment among millennials and Gen Z—financial goals reign supreme. A substantial 57% of respondents cited personal finance goals as their primary aim for the upcoming year, signaling a growing awareness between lower financial stress and overall mental health.

Sue Gardiner, a certified financial planner, emphasizes the profound relationship between financial strength and mental well-being. "Being in a strong financial position doesn’t mean you have everything to support your lifestyle right now," she notes. "It means that you understand how you’re spending your money and understand your personal cash flow."

A deep dive into Gen Z's top financial resolutions for 2024

Delving into the specifics of Gen Z's financial goals for the coming year reveals three key priorities:

1. Grow savings

Nearly 60% of Gen Z respondents aim to prioritize growing their savings in 2024 and automation has emerged as a recommended strategy, with periodic transfers into savings accounts. Gardiner advocates using a top high-yield savings account, citing them as a secure opportunity for substantial savings growth.

2. Pay off debt

Over 40% of Gen Z participants want to get out of debt in the upcoming year. This is important, considering Gen Z’s average credit card balance increased 4.23% in just the first half of 2023 alone. Credit Karma says the average Gen Z credit card balance was $3,193 between January and March of 2023. Between April and June of 2023, the average credit card balance jumped to $3,328 for the average Gen Z consumer.

Strategies include leveraging introductory 0% interest periods with the best credit cards with a 0% intro APR. Gardiner underscores the importance of creating manageable pay-down schedules and being mindful of associated fees.

3. Stick to a budget

Budgeting is acknowledged as a cornerstone of financial planning by 41% of Gen Z respondents. The emphasis on a manageable budget, whether through apps or traditional methods, is highlighted. Regular check-ins are recommended to cultivate spending habits and facilitate informed decision-making.

Comparing generations: Insights across age groups

To compare, let's draw insights from older generations' financial behaviors and goals. In conjunction with the Harris Poll, a recent study, the 22nd Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers surveyed nearly 5,500 American workers, including 1,100 baby boomers.

Paying off debt was a priority for 8% of boomers, but it was an even higher priority for Gen Z (10%), Millennials (15%), and Gen Xers (13%).

The priority of “just getting by” to cover basic living expenses was cited by 17% of boomers. Still, even more concerningly, the goal of just making it through each month was stated as a priority for 35% of Generation Z, 30% of millennials, and 25% of Gen X. This suggests that younger generations are struggling far worse than their older counterparts financially.

Some cross-generational insights from the older generations:

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are generally considered to be those who were born from 1946 to 1964. Here are their primary areas of focus:

  • Shaped by post-World War II economic prosperity, baby boomers prioritized homeownership and retirement savings. 
  • Traditional pension plans played a significant role in their retirement strategies.
  • Long-term investment and wealth accumulation were focal points.

Generation X

Generation X are those who were born between 1965 and 1980. Here are their primary areas of focus:

  • Experienced economic shifts and the rise of dual-income households.
  • Witnessed the advent of 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs).
  • Balancing career aspirations with family responsibilities defined their financial landscape.

Comparative analysis: Identifying trends and shifts

While overarching financial principles resonate across generations—such as the value of budgeting, tracking expenses, and avoiding excessive debt — nuances emerge from shifts in economic landscapes and societal expectations. Millennials are the most like Gen Z in how they think about emerging trends, both heavily engrained with technology. These are individuals born between 1981 and 1996. Here is what to know about how they think through emerging trends:

Technology integration: Millennials and Gen Z leverage technology for budgeting, investing, and financial education. Digital platforms facilitate real-time tracking and decision-making.

Debt dynamics: Millennials contend with student loan debt, influencing financial priorities. Older generations navigated economic landscapes with differing debt structures.

Retirement realities: Generational approaches to retirement planning reflect changing career paths and expectations. The gig economy and evolving retirement age expectations shape the financial landscape for younger generations.

Financial education: Accessible financial education resources benefit millennials and Gen Z. Initiatives address gaps in previous generations' financial literacy.

Bottom line

As we traverse the bridge from one year to the next, the resolutions of Gen Z offer a lens into their financial priorities. The importance of goals such as savings growth, debt settlement, and budget adherence underscores desires for financial stability and autonomy. 

A comparative analysis with older generations highlights the dynamic nature of financial realities influenced by evolving economic hardships. For example, Gen Z and Millennials might have more information via technology. Still, they must also maneuver a far more complex economy and a housing market with undoubtedly more entry barriers than their elders.

The key takeaway lies in the universal principles of financial well-being that transcend generational boundaries. Whether it's the power of compounding through high-yield savings accounts or strategic approaches to debt repayment, the essence of financial success remains constant. As technology reshapes financial landscapes and economic conditions evolve, these shared financial goals become guiding lights, leading each generation toward a secure and informed financial future.

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Author Details

Georgina Tzanetos Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who has been active in financial media for the past six years. She holds a master's in political economy from NYU, where she studied distressed labor markets.