Monday, June 19, 2017

Don’t Understand Millennials and Money? Wait Until Gen Z Shows Up at Your Office

I hope you enjoyed Father’s Day yesterday and took a moment to drink something cold, grill something hot, smoke something slowly and enjoy your favorite outdoor hobby…or hammock.

As the father of 18 and 13 year-old boys who graduated last week from high school and middle school, respectively, I’ve been thinking a lot about the passage of time. It’s not only technology that distinguishes today’s younger people from previous generations; it’s how quickly they’re accelerating their transition from childhood to adulthood.

Meagan Johnson, a generational expert, speaker and author calls members of the Gen Z cohort “Linksters” because it is the first generation to be linked into technology from day one. Social, mobile and cloud storage aren’t things they had to learn….it’s been part of their DNA from the time they were in pre-school.
According to the Center for Generational Kinetics (CGK), most members of Gen Z—the 70 million young Americans born after 1995--don’t remember a time before social media. As a result, the Center said, “they tend to live more of their lives online and via smartphone—interacting with friends and family and making major purchases. This could have profound implications for everything from their relationships and how they learn to virtual reality training and problem-solving,” CGK said.

While today’s teens and tweens run circles around us on the tech front, I’ve had some good laughs watching my boys try to push a lawn mower, change a tire, address an envelope properly or try to read the hands of an old fashioned analog clock. I guess it’s how my dad felt watching me butcher 2x4s on his basement table saw, weedwack my mom’s flowers in the yard, or try to paint over the fresh scratches in my junker car without first using primer or scraping off the old rust.

More to today’s young people than tech addiction

What you may not know about the always-wired generation is that they’re fiercely independent, very entrepreneurial and highly conscious of money, brands and the freedom that technology and a little bit of cash can bring.

My 18 year-old has a drone-based aerial photography business to supplement his minimum wage jobs in retail and manual labor. The other night I drove my 13 year-old to the ball field to collect his monthly check for umpiring Little League games. It was great to see he had earned several hundred dollars officiating the endless “walk-fests” known as 9-10 year-old baseball and occasionally putting an unruly coach or parent in his place.
What impressed me more was how quickly he and his peers became part of the financial system. Before we left the parking lot, my son and fellow young umps had scribbled their names on the back of their checks, snapped photos with their smartphones, tapped their mobile banking apps and whoosh….the money was instantly in their debit accounts.

On the silent ride home, my son went immediately to—the online stock exchange for footwear started by Cleveland Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert—to check out the prices of limited edition vintage sneakers. He’s been working a few deals with his virtual friends and customers from all over the U.S. and getting ready to attend a “SneakerHead” convention. That’s where he and his buds will have a booth, buy and sell several thousand dollars’ worth of high-end sneakers and apparel. More often than not he and his fellow traders will come home with a handful of “Benjamins” ($100 bills) the way our generation used to come home from the drugstore with a handful of baseball cards.

The other day, I dropped my son 13 year-old off at the post office to make a shipment across the country to a cyber pal he made in California. He and his counter-party were Facetiming each other to confirm that the other was actually at the local post office preparing to ship the sneaks they were trading. Kids in the “industry” as the call it, typically meet via Instagram. All have Pay Pal accounts and most have “trust” ratings that tell others whether they are trustworthy shippers or known scammers.
The SEC and Better Business Bureau could learn a thing or two from this generation.

When I came home from work the other day, my son was hanging out with a friend from across town….. When I asked the boy if he needed a ride home, the kid politely declined. “Is your mom or dad on the way?” I asked. “Nah,” the kid said. They’re busy at work. Uber’s picking me up.” So he whipped out his phone, tapped the Uber app and said, “Gotta go….he’s right around the corner.”

While many marketers, trade associations, educators and financial professionals are trying to figure out how to remain relevant to Millennials—the roughly 75 million Americans in their 20s and 30s--there’s another cohort coming up the ranks that is even smarter, more tech savvy and more impatient to become independent adults who have little need for conventional banks, brokerage accounts, landline phones, taxis, traditional classroom education or higher education.
Although most Gen Z’ers are still in their teens, CGK reports that 12 percent say they have already started saving for retirement and 35 percent say they plan to start saving in their twenties.

According to Harvard Business Review, nearly 70 percent of Gen-Z teens were “self-employed” (e.g., teaching piano lessons, selling goods on eBay) versus just 12 percent that held a “traditional” teen job like waiting tables. This ability and ingenuity to turn coveted skillsets into earnings power will likely serve Gen-Zers well as they enter the labor force.

Will you be ready to work with Gen Z or serve their needs when they become your clients? In my next post we’ll explore 8 key differences between Millennials and Generation Z?”


TAGS:  Millennials vs. Gen Z, teen entrepreneurs, young people and money

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