Gen Z Workers See Brighter Futures via Financial Wellness

August 25, 2021

Gen Z workers (18 to 24 years old) are feeling the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially when it comes to their personal finances.  This may have a profound impact on their ability to save for future goals like retirement.  Financial wellness programs and access to financial advice are crucial for Gen Z workers as they are just starting out in their careers.

Many are graduating college and attempting to obtain jobs for the first time.  However, according to a recent article, Gen Z workers are experiencing “delayed financial milestones and high rates of unemployment.”  That is their first taste of financial independence, and it may leave a sour impression.

According to the survey, Gen Z are:

  • Reluctant to take on debt: Generation Z workers avoid debt in general, and credit card debt in particular.  In fact, a different Bankrate poll from May 2020 found that 45% of Gen Z had no debt before and during the pandemic.  In addition, 50% of Gen Z workers had no personal debt as of December 2020.  In fact, this generation’s primary source of debt was student loans – 24% copped to having debt due to education; just 12% had credit card debt.  Both data points came from a survey cited in the article.
  • Not big on savings, either: Like many Americans, the Gen Z cohort is woefully under-saved.  In the emergency savings category, 32% of Gen Z didn’t have any before or during the pandemic, and 20% saw a decline in the savings they had, according to  In contradiction to the data cited above about their reluctance to carry debt, many Gen Z’ers turned to their credit cards to absorb emergency spending – a predictable behavior for those lacking a rainy day fund.  However, many more employers are offering emergency savings accounts as an employee benefit these days, which may help workers bulk up their emergency savings and their retirement accounts.  Many employers match employees’ emergency savings contributions by putting money into their retirement accounts on their behalf.
  • More responsible with credit cards: The Gen Z workforce find credit card rewards most appealing – 36% have this type of card, according to  However, building credit solid enough to earn those rewards may take time.  Nonetheless, 81% of Gen Z’ers say they don’t carry a balance on their credit cards.  This may mean they pay the cards off every month, and/or that they don’t use the cards they have, preferring to rely on their debit cards for everyday purchases instead.
  • Primarily users of debit cards: Indeed, the majority of Gen Z’ers prefer using a debit card to pay for gas (32%), groceries (44%), and restaurants (46%).  However, credit cards are their go-to way to pay for travel, with 23% opting to use a card to charge airfare and hotel expenses.  In addition, Gen Z chose cash back as their favorite credit card perk during the pandemic.
  • Off to a bumpy financial start: While the pandemic has caused many Gen Z workers to put off travel plans and vacations, it has impacted their finances in much more serious ways.  More than half (54%) have delayed a financial milestone like pursuing career opportunities or buying a car.  In addition, 14% of Gen Z’ers moved home.
  • Lacking financial guidance: A recent poll found that 28% of Gen Z learn about finance from social media.  If  done right, this may present an opportunity for employers to reach them on channels such as TikTok and Twitter.  However, there are some concerns about the reliability of financial advice online in general, according to  Worse yet, however, 22% of Gen Z workers have no access to financial advice at all.

Employers have an opportunity to make a huge impact to help Gen Z gain access to financial wellness programs.  It certainly appears that Gen Z needs the help, and that they’re ready and willing to accept it.  Gen Z has a decent foundation – they just need a gentle nudge to keep going in the right direction.  They can then look forward to an even brighter, more financially secure future.  With employers’ help, they have a better chance of getting there.

Steff Chalk

Steff Chalk

Steff C. Chalk is Executive Director of The Retirement Advisor University, a collaboration with UCLA Anderson School of Management Executive Education. Steff also serves as Executive Director of The Plan Sponsor University and is current faculty of The Retirement Adviser University.

Steff Chalk

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