Gen Z Feels Financially Unprepared for Adulthood — But Has Hope for the Future

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In spite of a growing economy and booming job market, members of Generation Z say they are financially ill-prepared to face adulthood.

See: 5 Financial Steps Gen Z Should Be Taking Now
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Money’s Most Influential — Where Do Americans Get Their Financial Advice?

Gen Z is comprised of people born between 1997 and 2015 — an age group that includes recent college and high school graduates. They said that running out of emergency savings (35%) and watching their parents struggle with job loss during the pandemic (27%) were among the financial stressors that made them concerned for the future. Meanwhile, 43% and 41%, respectively, had concerns about paying for grad school or certifications, while 39% worried about their credit.

The recent survey by OnePoll on behalf of Experian Boost also found that 81% of respondents “wish they were taught more life skills before graduating college.” Additionally, the survey found, 70% said they’re feeling overwhelmed by their financial situation, including their ability to pay rent and monthly bills.

As one solution, 30% moved back in with their parents, while another 31% moved back to their hometown — albeit not back home — to find a less expensive apartment. And 32% put off paying their student loans in order to better manage other finances.

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See: 25 States That Are Trying to Add Personal Finance Education to High School Curriculums
Find: How Will Teens and Gen Z Invest Their Money? Think Low-Risk, ESG and Roboadvisors

A Bright Financial Future for Gen Z

The survey also uncovered some good news. Thirty-eight percent of Gen Z said they understand the concepts behind investing, and the same percentage understands credit scores, while 42% said they understand how to budget. Meanwhile, 64% said they believe they will find financial security within the next six years.

Their knowledge, insight, and preparation bodes well for their future, Rod Griffin, senior director of Consumer Education and Advocacy for Experian, told GOBankingRates. “Their ability to make sound decisions from the onset, such as understanding and managing their credit scores and keeping debt low, will undoubtably put them in a better position to get loans and grow their wealth in the future,” Griffin said. “Ultimately, they could end up in better financial situations than their parents, which is the hope for every parent.”

See: What Gen Z Can Learn From Millennials’ Money Mistakes
Find: These Are the 15 Best Cities for Gen Z to Live Well on a Budget

Tips for Building Credit as a Young Graduate

But for now, managing credit remains a key concern for this young generation. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed ranked having bad credit as one of their top financial stressors.

However, Griffin said, “For young people in particular, it is common to have low credit scores due to short credit histories.” He urged those looking to raise their scores quickly to first rely on free resources and tools to learn more about building and managing credit.

After that, he recommends following these steps to build credit.

See: A Look at Gen Z’s Financial Habits, From Spending to Saving and More
Find: How to Improve Your Credit Score — 8 Ways to Get Started

1. Open an account.

“Achieving a good credit score requires diligence and time,” Griffin said. Opening an account now can help start to build a credit history. Young adults also have the option to be added as an authorized user on a parent’s card or to open their own secured card, backed by a savings account, Griffin added.

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2. Use credit cards, but don’t max them out.

Whether you’re opening your first credit card in your own name or already have a wallet full of plastic, it’s wise to use your cards frequently without maxing them out. “Making a small purchase and paying it in full each month helps show a positive payment history over time,” Griffin explained. He pointed out that individuals must have at least one open account to show a credit history. “Accounts then need to show activity for a minimum of one month but typically … three to six months before they will be included in a credit score,” he said.

He warns Gen Z and others intent on managing their credit to be mindful of how much they charge each month. “Maxing out all or even one of your credit cards will hurt credit scores,” he said. “Reducing credit card balances will lower your utilization rate, or balance to limit ratio, which can result in rapid improvement to your credit scores.”

See: It’s Time to Break Up With Your First Credit Card
Find: Expert Tips to Fix Your Credit on a Limited Income

3. Pay bills on time.

The number-one factor in credit scoring is on-time payments, Griffin said, so it’s crucial to pay all your bills on time. If you don’t have a credit card yet, or if your credit card account is brand new, you may be able to use Experian Boost to improve your credit score, Griffin explained.

The program allows you to add positive payment histories for bills such as utilities, telecommunications and even video streaming services to your Experian credit file. “This is especially beneficial to Gen Z, as these often are the first bills that they encounter as they begin adulthood,” Griffin said, pointing out that, on average, Experian Boost users raise their Experian credit score by 13 points when they let Boost track their payment history.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.

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