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Is Gen Z beating out millennials in terms of saving?

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(© Orawan – stock.adobe.com)

Gen Z and millennials can’t seem to find any area not to compete in (see: middle vs. side part, and of course, straight-leg vs. skinny jeans).

But how do these rival generations stack up financially?

Gen Z reportedly is more likely than millennials to rack up credit card debt. And while millennials—born between 1981 and 1996—currently lead the way in student loan debt, Gen Z isn’t too far behind. As of October 2020, borrowers ages 24 and under had an average of $16,500 in student loan debt, according to EducationData.org. With the rising costs of college and Gen Z’s ambition to overtake millennials as the most educated generation, it seems they could be further behind in achieving a debt-free lifestyle. Millennials 1, Gen Z 0.

Debt is just one aspect of the picture, though. Millennials may have won the battle, but will they win the war? Which generation is better at saving money?

How COVID has affected savings

In the Before Times — specifically, January 2020 — nearly three-quarters of millennials reported saving, according to a Bank of America study. Of those who were saving, nearly 60% reported having at least $15,000 saved while a quarter of millennials said they have at least $100,000 saved.

With the COVID-19 pandemic throwing life as we knew it into disarray, many Americans were forced to reevaluate their financial situations. Take retirement savings, for example. Nearly 40% of millennial workers said they weren’t sure if they’d be able to save enough money to retire, according to a Wells Fargo study, while 18% of millennials started saving more for retirement because of coronavirus.

Gen Zers are much further out from retirement, as the oldest zoomers are just 24 and the youngest may or may not be in kindergarten yet. But they’ve already been labeled by some as the savvy generation (more like Zavvy, amirite?). In a declutter survey from August 2020, nearly 50% said they already have a savings account and a quarter have an emergency fund. The study also found that the average Gen Zer has been saving for three and a half years, while the average millennial only has been saving for five years.

Selling unneeded items

The internet has made selling personal belongings a breeze. And Gen Z, the tech native generation, has taken full advantage. The declutter report also found that 72% of Gen Zers are always trying to come up with outside-of-the-box ways to save and make money.

Gen Zers are more likely to sell unneeded items online than their millennial counterparts, and on average, they are saving nearly $387/month from a combination of earnings and savviness like getting discounts and buying items secondhand. That’s $4,644/year. If the oldest Gen Zers are putting away that much and don’t increase or decrease their savings over time, that would put their savings at $32,508 by age 32—the median age of millennials—which is more than double the minimum amount that most millennials had saved as of January 2020.

It’s not a perfect data analysis, but we’ll have to score this one for Gen Z, making it a 1-1 draw. And think of this matchup as a spring training game because we’ll leave it at a tie instead of heading to extras.

Story by Casey Musarra. Casey is a reformed sports journalist tackling a new game of financial services writing. Previous bylines include Newsday and Philly.com. Mike Francesa once called her a “great girl.”


Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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