Millennials have long been in the spotlight as they’ve struggled with escalating education costs and fewer job prospects, but Generation Z has taken the initiative to respond differently to these obstacles. Members of the newest generation are attracting notice for the different ways they’re defining success and prosperity. As it becomes the most populous generation, Gen Z’s attitudes are taking hold on a wider scale and changing traditional approaches to major life transitions.
If you want to find a steady job, own a home, and get a university education, go for those goals. But if those things aren’t your cup of tea — or if you’re hoping to avoid student debt, high mortgage rates, and credit card balances that creep higher every month — you might want to look at how many Gen Z’ers are approaching life.
Using Online Education Services
Education is getting more expensive, and while there are traditional ways around those costs — vocational training that leads to apprenticeships, for example, or getting an associate’s degree from a community college — even those require money that not everyone has. Plus, they often require in-person attendance, which means setting aside time to attend classes. That’s understandable, but it doesn’t help people who have varying work schedules or transportation challenges.
Online education, however, is addressing those issues, having created its own small educational revolution in the past few years. It may have started with a few alternative class sections at traditional colleges, but many schools today offer degrees based entirely on online courses, and certificate programs cover almost every field imaginable.
From learning how to debate via a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to online training in CPR techniques, you can find whatever you want to learn just by doing a web search. Granted, some fields do require hands-on training, such as car repair — but for a majority of other topics, online courses can work just as well as those taken on-site.
Aiming for Autonomy and Freedom
If society has learned one thing over the past 10 years or so, it’s that there are many different ways of doing business. You aren’t limited to retail shifts, office work, or manual labor (though there’s certainly nothing wrong with those types of work); you’re not stuck with working for someone else’s company or trying to start your own big company. As many Gen Z’ers have found, it’s possible to create your own small business without setting up a huge organization. You might not have employees or a lot of traditional perks, but you can have freedom.
Autonomy and the ability to structure your days and nights the way you want has become extremely valuable, with many workers setting out on their own, often cobbling together side gigs to complement their main line of work. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you aren’t thrilled with the idea of being in a 9-to-5 job where someone else manages you, it could be worth it to start doing the work to become independent. You’ll need to be careful of costs, but it will pay to have your initial marketing materials designed and made professionally. From letterhead to customized promotional products like water bottles or pens, getting your new business’ name out there is essential for finding new customers.
Getting a Grip on Finances Early
It is normal — expected, even — that people in their 20s, just out of college, aren’t going to have a lot of money. The expectation is that they’ll earn more each year as their pay goes up with merit raises and requests for increases. But of course, that doesn’t always happen.
Instead of just grinning and bearing it, hoping that one day you’ll be able to stop living from paycheck to paycheck, you can revamp your financial life early and start saving now. Gen Z’ers have witnessed the financial havoc that millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers went through during the Great Recession, and they’re keenly aware of how desirable it is to start saving and setting up retirement funds as early as possible.
Even if each paycheck is stretched thin by the end of the month, you can still start to make improvements. One strategy is to start monitoring your credit score and watching your credit as a whole. These scores — you have several — tell lenders, apartment managers, and others about your financial risk. No matter what your paycheck looks like, if you can increase your score substantially, you could get better rates and terms on financial products, and qualify for better places to live with smaller deposits. All of that goes a long way toward cutting down what you have to pay out — and a long way toward building up a reserve of savings.
You may be tempted to spend on status symbols like a new car or an awesome vacation, but take a look at your priorities first. Is that vacation to a destination you’ve always wanted to visit? Great! Then go — if you can afford it and have no other pressing financial needs. But if you’re considering traveling just because others say you should, then first weigh whether it’s worth it, in light of your desire to save.
Gen Z’ers are using these common-sense criteria to redefine ways of leading the best possible life. And they’re finding that the nontraditional options work just as well as the traditional — and sometimes even better.
The Carousel would like to thank Jessica Larson of SolopreneurJournal.com for her article.