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“I don't have money to live on.”  Generation Z is full of financial struggles but has inherited a golden job market

“I don't have money to live on.” Generation Z is full of financial struggles but has inherited a golden job market

Generation Z is entering the workforce and — in a great tradition of what Millennials call “adulting” — they are complaining that older generations had a much easier life.

Before all the boomers and slackers throw their tablets across the room, let me mention that Generation Z — people born between the late 1990s and early 2010s — are entering adulthood during one of the strongest labor markets in U.S. history. Compared to Millennials in particular, who entered the workforce during the Dark Ages known as the Great Recession, the Gen Z experience is a dream.

“This is the best economy we've seen for younger workers in living memory,” Brendan Duke, senior director of economic policy at the Center for American Progress, tells me. He added that their wages increased faster than general inflation and faster than any other age group.

look here: Last year, the unemployment rate among 16- to 24-year-olds was 7.9% – the lowest since 1953, and much better than the unemployment rate recorded in 2010 (18.4%) in the wake of the recession.

But Generation Z's life isn't easy either.

Like the rest of us (hello, older millennials here), they're fighting the onslaught of inflation that has sent prices skyrocketing over the past three years. Basic necessities have been particularly expensive: food prices have soared during the pandemic and companies haven't been shy about keeping them high, even as supply chains recover. Accommodation costs have risen dramatically.

“Housing is a big challenge for younger workers,” Duke says. “I think this is the part of the economy that has seen the least progress in terms of reducing inflation and it is the part of the economy where younger workers are being affected the most.”

Surviving inflation is much easier if you own property. Homeowners can get equity loans or count on a cut of change when the home is sold. Generation Z hasn't had the opportunity to enter the market yet.

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It's important to remember, Duke says, that younger workers always start out at a disadvantage when they enter the job market. You start with an entry-level salary, gain experience, and usually see your salary increase. Of course, the long view isn't very comfortable when you're 23 and eating a meal with six of your roommates.

“I don't have money to live”

There is a big difference between the present moment and any other moment in history. Generation Z enters adulthood armed with a host of social platforms where they can publicly announce their financial distress or, conversely, look to their peers who are having a better time thanks to generational wealth.

One TikTok user posted a Angry outburst about the cost of living which has since been viewed 5 million times on the platform, with tens of thousands of comments and shares.

“I make three times the federal minimum wage and I have no money to live on,” he shouted into the room. “It's embarrassing to come out and say it's a struggle to survive right now, but I know a lot of people are suffering.” He later concludes that “the American dream is dead.”

Like a lot of financial analysis on TikTok, the video went a little off the rails. But the anger and despair point to a real and growing boredom taking hold among young people.

Generation Z suffers from higher rates of anxiety, depression, and pain than any other age group, according to a study they conducted 2022 Mackenzie. The same study found that Generation Z was the group least likely to seek medical care for these conditions because behavioral health care is expensive. “Many Gen Zers also indicated that their first step to managing behavioral health challenges was going to TikTok or Reddit for advice,” the report said.

It's hard to blame them: Many Gen Zers saw their formative years ruined by the global pandemic. Now, seniors face an adult life that may not offer them the benefits of home ownership, a comfortable income or a stable climate.

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This fatalism is a particular problem when it comes to inflation, which becomes more difficult to combat when consumers expect prices to continue rising. A recent analysis of BloombergIt revealed, based on data from the UK, that inflation expectations among 16- to 24-year-olds have increased more than any other age group since the pandemic – a fact that, according to the researchers, may have a healing effect.

“I don't have money to live”

There is a big difference between the present moment and any other moment in history. Generation Z enters adulthood armed with a host of social platforms where they can publicly announce their financial distress or, conversely, look to their peers who are having a better time thanks to generational wealth.

One TikTok user posted a Angry outburst about the cost of living which has since been viewed 5 million times on the platform, with tens of thousands of comments and shares.

“I make three times the federal minimum wage and I have no money to live on,” he shouted into the room. “It's embarrassing to come out and say it's a struggle to survive right now, but I know a lot of people are suffering.” He later concludes that “the American dream is dead.”

Like a lot of financial analysis on TikTok, the video went a little off the rails. But the anger and despair point to a real and growing boredom taking hold among young people.

Generation Z suffers from higher rates of anxiety, depression, and pain than any other age group, according to a study they conducted 2022 Mackenzie. The same study found that Generation Z was the group least likely to seek medical care for these conditions because behavioral health care is expensive. “Many Gen Zers also indicated that their first step to managing behavioral health challenges was going to TikTok or Reddit for advice,” the report said.

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It's hard to blame them: Many Gen Zers saw their formative years ruined by the global pandemic. Now, seniors face an adult life that may not offer them the benefits of home ownership, a comfortable income or a stable climate.

This fatalism is a particular problem when it comes to inflation, which becomes more difficult to combat when consumers expect prices to continue rising. A recent analysis of BloombergIt revealed, based on data from the UK, that inflation expectations among 16- to 24-year-olds have increased more than any other age group since the pandemic – a fact that, according to the researchers, may have a healing effect.

Millennials are changing things

Millennial Town isn't exactly sunny: We're racking up massive debt and many feel the American Dream is out of reach. But the distressed Generation Z may take some comfort from the Millennials' experience.

Many of us had no job prospects right out of college, and spent a decade on stagnant wages (all while the boomers, who blew up the economy, shamed us for living at home and eating avocado toast). Other unemployed Millennials went on to graduate school and took on more debt, which became a major barrier to economic mobility. (That's another benefit of a strong job market, Duke notes: We end up with fewer unhappy young people carrying college debt that will haunt them.)

It's taken a long time, but millennials, in some ways, have already caught up. We're overtaking Generation X in retirement savings starting in 2022, according to Charles Schwab. Since 2019, workers under 40 have seen wages rise by 14% on average.