People say how “kids these days” don’t understand hard work and are terrible with money. Younger generations are easy targets for their older counterparts. But if a recent study is accurate, the upcoming Generation Z might prove their older critics wrong.
According to a study released by the Center for Generational Kinetics, members of Gen Z are already working, planning for college — and even saving for retirement. One of the biggest differences between Gen Z and Millennials is their approach to college planning and student loan debt.
“We see the pendulum swinging back from the Millennials ‘college debt is part of life’ mentality,” said the white paper from the Center for Generational Kinetics. Instead, more than one in five members of Gen Z want to avoid personal debt at all costs.
Members of Gen Z are making decisions based on the cost of college. They also plan to work and use entrepreneurship to save money.
Gen Z is ready to pay their way through college
According to the study, about 38 percent of participants plan to work while in college. On top of that, 24 percent of those surveyed expect to use personal savings to help pay for college.
Gen Z is also considering the cost of college when making their decisions. “The mindset used to be that you would go to the best college you could get into and then get loans in order to pay for it,” said Jason Dorsey, the president of the Center for Generational Kinetics, according to Business Insider.
Considering community college to save money
Eva Baker, the founder of TeensGotCents and the Teenpreneur Conference, is 21 years old and one of the older members of Gen Z. Instead of choosing to go to a four-year school, she decided to take classes at the local community college.
“It’s so much more affordable,” Baker said. “Go to the local community college and stay at home. It makes a big difference.”
She pointed out that, in the past, a community college might not offer the same level of education as a four-year school. However, she feels like that’s not true anymore. Educational offerings from community colleges have improved. Now a community college offers a great value for the money, said Baker.
Choosing a low-cost school that will get the job done is part of the equation when it comes to getting through school with little to no debt. The other piece, as the Center for Generational Kinetics pointed out, is personal savings and a willingness to work through college.
And Gen Z is on top of that, too.
Gen Z is already earning money
The study found that 77 percent of those aged 14 to 21 are already earning their own money. They do so through freelance work, part-time jobs, or an earned allowance.
The Center’s study said that the percentage of Gen Z members already earning and spending their own money is on par with Millennials — who are 10 years older.
Today’s teens are more entrepreneurial than previous generations, too, an article in the Harvard Business Review pointed out.
The article’s author, Whitney Johnson, pointed out that her own peers cited teen jobs like flipping burgers and waiting tables.
“When I asked what their children do to earn money, only 12 percent of them had jobs that I would describe as traditional teen jobs,” Johnson wrote. “A whopping 70 percent had jobs that are best described as self-employed.”
From running babysitting businesses to selling on eBay, to teaching music lessons, teenagers earn money on their terms. And that can help them when they go to college or look for work later.
Learning and growing
Baker started her business at age 16. Now she connects teenpreneurs through her website, workshops, and the Teenpreneur Conference, which is in its second year.
“Being a teen entrepreneur is so beneficial,” Baker said. “It doesn’t really matter if it’s what you do for the rest of your life or if you just do it during high school. You learn so much.”
Baker learned basic accounting skills, communication skills, and how to brand herself. She also learned valuable customer service skills that will help her for the rest of her life, no matter what she ends up doing to earn money.
Running a successful business has allowed Baker to attend her community college part-time, off-and-on, over the last few years — without the need to go into debt. In fact, she actually put off college attendance to work on her business. She only has about three semesters of higher education under her belt. Baker’s at an age when many young adults are getting ready to graduate from a four-year program.
“I was about to enroll in a full-time program, and realized that my business opportunities were now,” Baker said. “If this is ever not what I want to do or stops being successful, school’s still going to be there.”
This practical attitude is one that seems to define Gen Z as its members grow, work, and plan for higher education. Of course, we will have to wait a few years to see if members of Gen Z actually realize their dreams — but it looks as though they’re off to a good start.
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