Money is hard and getting harder, especially for younger workers. Deloitte’s 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey sheds light on many aspects of the younger-gen experience, but most notably their precarious financial footing in our increasingly expensive world.
While the current sharp rise in inflation is hurting everyone, younger workers are particularly vulnerable to financial anxiety. When asked about their most pressing concern, the cost of living (meaning housing, transport and bills) was the top worry cited by Gen Z (29%). Only a quarter of Gen Z report that they can comfortably cover their monthly living expenses, and almost half (46%) say they live paycheck to paycheck.
And they don’t see much hope of things getting better. More than a quarter of Gen Z (26%) don’t feel confident that they will be able to retire. Seventy-two percent of Gen Z see a growing gap between the richest and poorest people in their country. Like last year, just over a quarter of Gen Z (28%) think their country’s economy will improve over the next 12 months.
Nor do they view business as helping the situation: less than half of Gen Zs (45%) agree that companies are having a positive impact on society. Deloitte notes that this is the fifth consecutive year this percentage has dropped.MORE FROMFORBES ADVISOR
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Add student loan debt to the picture—almost $41,000 of it per borrower—and it’s not that hard to see why Gen Z already has a reputation for burnout and mental health challenges.
Coping with the bills
How is Gen Z handling all this financial instability? Deloitte found that low pay was the top reason why respondents left a role within the last two years. Fifteen percent of those who work remotely moved somewhere cheaper to save money, and 33% say that working remotely has helped them trim their expenses.
In addition, a whopping 43% of Gen Z workers have taken on either a part- or full-time job in addition to their primary job. The study does note that side hustles may be about more than the money, as they provide an outlet for Gen Z to express their entrepreneurial side. However, the money doesn’t hurt and may be helping drive both Gen Z’s entrepreneurial goals and career advancement plans.
In their day jobs, many Gen Z employees are eager to move up the ranks, with 49% wanting leadership/management training from their current employer.
Are Gen Z workers stepping into the job-hopper shoes of the Millennials? Deloitte found that 40% of Gen Zs would like to leave their jobs within two years, and 35% say they would do so even before they had another job lined up. Notably, Deloitte’s 2021 survey found that nearly one in four Millennials planned to leave their jobs within the year—a finding which proved all too true in the Great Resignation.
At the same time, a recent survey by iCIMS provides an interesting counterpoint to the Deloitte findings. iCIMS found that 91% of the surveyed 2020/2021 graduates and 2021 undergraduates said they care how long they stay with an employer, and almost 70% said they actually see themselves staying long term.
The authors postulate that although Gen Z workers are very particular about the companies they work for, they truly do want to find the right long-term fit so they can experience stability after what has been a very uncertain couple of years.
Balancing idealism and pragmatism
Between the social and environmental causes they champion in the workplace and the bottom-line necessity of earning enough to pay the bills, many Gen Z workers are becoming idealistic pragmatists.
Pragmatically, you take the job that pays the best. Idealistically, you take the role that helps you change the world. While these two priorities aren’t always mutually exclusive, some Gen Z workers may find themselves having to choose.
One thing is clear: if they do pick pay over purpose, it won’t be forever. Deloitte’s study notes, “While societal and environmental impact, along with a diverse and inclusive culture, are not always at the top of the priority list when choosing a job, these continue to be critical issues in terms of retention.”
Finding their feet
At times, Gen Z can be approached like they’re life from a different planet, completely alien to the rest of the workforce. And while there are some differences among generations, these pale in light of the similarities among the four generational cohorts at work today. It’s an expensive world out there, and not just for Gen Z.
In the end, we’re all in the same storm. Gen Z is no different from any other generation in their struggle between idealism and paying the bills. They’re just finding their feet amid all these challenges at a young age.
The dreamers are now getting creative to make ends meet. The idealists who prioritize employment with an organization that reflects their values, now find themselves ranking pay as a top reason to join (or leave) a company. As the cost of living continues to rise, Gen Z—and the rest of us—may have to make tough calls about where ours careers will take us.