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[Survey] Top Causes of Gen Z’s Financial Stress

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For better or for worse, the majority of media coverage of younger Americans focuses on Millennials and their various misdoings. Remember the viral story about how Millennials’ avocado toast habits prevent them from affording homes? But as the youngest Millennials are entering their mid-20s, there’s a new generation of young adults — Generation Z.

Anyone born in or after 1997 is considered part of this group, and much like their Millennial predecessors, the media likes to focus on Gen Z’s shortcomings. In reality, with their “eight-second attention span” and “screen addiction” also comes a certain adeptness for using technology to solve problems and create change. There’s still a lot to learn about this new generation, so we decided to find out how they feel about money by surveying them about their biggest financial stressors.

Jump to our infographic for a quick overview of Gen Z’s collective money mindset plus some tips for achieving lifelong success, or read through our findings for a more in-depth look.

Key findings:

  • They’re seriously stressed about student loans. One quarter says that student loan debt is their biggest money stressor.
  • They’re stuck in an unhealthy cycle of stress that creates health problems and then creates more stress about paying for health care to treat those problems.
  • They’re not prioritizing debt properly. Gen Z is 2x as worried about student loan debt as they are about credit card debt — despite credit cards carrying a significantly higher interest rate.

Gen Z is almost as concerned about paying for health care as they are about student loans

One quarter of our survey respondents say that student loans are their biggest financial stressor. Considering that many members of Gen Z are still in college, it makes sense that student loans are top of mind.

Interestingly though, the second biggest stressor among this group is paying for health care. Nearly 20 percent of Gen Z claims health care costs as their number one financial worry. This corroborates a study done by the American Psychology Association that found that Gen Z is 1.2 times as stressed about health-related concerns as adults overall.

A lot of their health concerns are likely over their mental health because that same study found that members of Gen Z are significantly more likely to report their mental health as fair or even poor compared to previous generations.1 Luckily, members of Gen Z are also more likely to receive treatment from a mental health professional.1 But that help doesn’t come cheap — on average, therapy costs roughly $75 to $150 per 45-minute session.

As a result, Gen Z is trapped in a cycle of stress. Stress creates health problems that need medical treatment, but paying for that medical treatment only causes more stress.

Is high-interest credit card debt looming over unaware Gen Zs?

Despite student loans being a very real concern, Gen Z may be overlooking an even more costly type of debt — credit cards. Americans under the age of 35 have an average of $5,808 in credit card debt. While that age group includes both Gen Z and millennials, it’s still indicative of the trouble that Gen Z will face if they don’t prioritize paying off credit card debt, or ideally preventing it in the first place by saving during college.

The average credit card annual percentage rate (APR) is over three times as high as the average student loan interest rate for undergraduate federal loans. Despite this, many recent grads focus on paying off student loans while simultaneously racking up credit card debt to afford their lifestyles. While it’s a noble effort, the interest paid on credit card debt will almost certainly negate the payments made toward student loans in the long run. Plus, student loans are often more flexible because of the options to defer or consolidate.

Just like there’s still a lot to learn about Gen Z, Gen Z has a lot to learn about the world. Hopefully, their unprecedented access to information via the internet will allow them to learn more at an earlier age than previous generations. With a few more years under their belts, they should be well on their way to strong financial health and bright futures.


1. American Psychology Association Stress in America™ Generation Z

2. LearnVest How Much Does Therapy Cost, and How Do You Pay For It?

3. Value Penguin Average Credit Card Debt in America: March 2019

4. Federal Student Aid Interest Rates and Fees

Comments (1) Leave your comment

  1. There are 2 other factors/findings that no one seems to notice:

    1. Suburbs. As new communities got built, more asphalts and concretes had been laid down and which it causes a Heat Island Effect (a metropolitan area that’s a lot warmer than the rural areas surrounding it). Not only that, it creates gridlock (more traffic between metropolitan and suburbs). Since all the “good looking” houses got built, it reduces (covers) the natural ground/dirt where it can/could be used as farmland. Because of hard surface covers the natural ground/dirt (which it absorbs all the rainfall and make the ground rich), it causes massive flooding. What does it mean? our food prices go up (grocery stores, bars, restaurants) because our atmosphere is getting hotter as new communities getting built outside of metropolitan areas. If this problem continues, all of us will be nutrition deficient in 10 years. Because of this problem, Cleveland (OH) and Detroit (MI) is tearing down the 30 yrs + foreclosed homes from their suburbs and try to revitalize as farmland. Because of Heat Island Effect, Gen Z will become nutritionally deficient since we won’t be able to grow our food from rich soil (nutrients from today’s produce is 1/100 of produce from 100 years ago) (which it makes them to spend more money on healthcare).

    2. Class Divide (HBO Documentary). As your neighborhood develops with new high rises or brand new houses, your neighborhood takes a huge hit on everyone who lives in that neighborhood. Because of the renewal, their (existing renters) rents go up and new renter’s rent also goes up which it makes harder for people to afford monthly rent and unable to find places to live.

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