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Unpacking a Generation: Defining Success for Gen Z

In Part 1 of the “Unpacking a Generation” series, we busted media-led myths that have shaped our understanding of Gen Z. Our approach in understanding Gen Z in the US has been synonymous with how we approach any challenge at Egg – we’ve embraced the messy process of understanding all the dueling and contrasting identities that encompass Gen Z’s identity, outlook, values and consumer mindsets in order to emerge with an accurate, compelling understanding of who they really are. 

When seeking to understand Gen Z’s outlook on the future, we found ourselves grappling with the generation’s creativity-fueled side hustles and pragmatic (and not necessarily optimistic) outlook of the future. To make sense of all the noise, we went directly to the source to help us understand how Gen Z views the future and defines success.

Previous generations have been confined by traditional markers of success used to compare, measure and quantify if you “made it.” But in this 21st century generation, many Gen Z typically reject society’s parameters of success. Their perceptions of success exist on a spectrum, moving fluidly through embracing conventional life goals and the subjectivity of success. 

“To me being successful is being happy…It’s what you do with that success… it depends on the person.” – Female, 17

Gen Z, while ambitious and success-driven, embraces the subjectivity of these terms – they recognize success might mean different things to different people – and how these markers might change for themselves as they evolve. It’s more about “figuring things out” and less about traditional milestones (house, kids, name on the door, etc.). 

At the other end of the spectrum, it’s important to remember this is not a rejection of traditional milestones, but rather, these traditional markers are no longer the sole way to measure their strides and accomplishments. As Gen Z continues to mature, they will continue to evolve and challenge where they exist along this spectrum.

As we look at how this generation views the future, we see a struggle between the desire for adventure, the drive for success, and an impulsive element of youth. Gen Zer’s are seeking ways to embrace side hustle mentality, from creating digital stores to sell clothes or shoes to “making it big” on TikTok. All the while, Gen Z’ers still yearn for stability when looking to the future.

Gen Z embraces constant evolution while grappling with a desire for stability. There’s a seriousness to this generation, likely a reaction to the global instability they have grown up with. We often think of how impactful the Recession was in shaping Millennial mindsets and behaviors but have yet to interrogate its impact on this younger generation. When speaking to Gen Zers from 17 to 24, while there is a sense of caution when looking ahead, they don’t feel defined by the instability of the past. They remember watching family members’ lives fall apart due to financial woes and therefore vow not to let financial pressure or instability limit their experience. Gen Z aims to strike a balance between seeking the steady path and embracing life’s journey.

It’s important to remember Gen Z are still in the 13-24 age range and this life stage shapes how they view the future. They may link stability with happiness, but the specifics of what they need in order to feel stable are still emerging.

“When I get a paycheck, I put a certain amount into savings. I’ve never paid my credit card bill late because debt is the enemy. It adds so much stress to people… seeing how my parents grew up.” –Male, age 20

This future outlook is brought to life through Gen Z’s approach to finances.

Category Spotlight: Freedom in Finance

Within the category, they look to financial resources to provide stability and empower their freedom. Because they’ve had access to financial literacy education earlier than previous generations, Gen Z are well-equipped to know what they want in informational tools and seek apps and services that work for them. 

Micro investing from brands such as Acorn or Stash provides the convenience and independence Gen Z seeks. These automated apps allow Gen Z to start saving and investing at a small scale in a clear and understandable way. For those who embrace their freedoms but don’t want to throw caution to the wind entirely, these tools provide a steppingstone to explore their financial independence.

How brands can resonate in this space:

  • Create tools that encourage their exploration and independence in finance
  • Lean heavily on AI to support them navigating the category
  • Provide clear transparency and support to help them feel comfortable and confident in their decisions
  • Lean on the power of influencer platforms like YouTube and TikTok as key areas Gen Z turns to gain information over long-form content such as informational articles

With all that is uncertain in the world today, Gen Z struggles to envision what their future will look like. While they are finding ways to define their own success, what that might look like and how they will find stability in their aspirations is yet to be defined. Brands will win when they empower Gen Z by creating spaces to learn, grow and explore on their own terms. 

In our final two parts of this series, we’ll be highlighting the nuances of Gen Z as activists and how their values manifest into consumer behavior on a practical level; stay tuned!

To receive a copy of Egg Strategy’s full report on Gen Z, please reach out to us at genz@eggstrategy.com. We hope to hear from you!