Are we 'generation pessimistic'? A Gen Z's view
If Urban Dictionary is anything to go by, your average millennial has “no house… no money… just avocado”.
However, facing huge global issues, such as climate change and unstable politics, in addition to soaring rents, is it any surprise that this generation would prefer to seek solace from their troubles with a brunch of avocado on toast and browse the odd nihilistic meme on their phones?
Alas, I’m playing up to a tired stereotype here, but a new survey from accountancy firm Deloitte confirms the view that we are living in tough times and millennials and Gen Zs are experiencing the brunt of it, both mentally and financially.
Deloitte suggests that millennials (defined for their study as those born between 1983 and 1994) and Gen Z respondents (those born between 1995 and 2002) are feeling a growing sense of “uneasiness and pessimism”.
Tell me something we don’t know!
Deloitte interviewed 13,416 millennials across 42 countries ranging from Argentina to Turkey (with between 200 and 500 people in each nation) and 3,009 Gen Z respondents in 10 countries. The answers provided by millennials and Gen Z respondents were often remarkably similar. Here is a quick summary of the findings, together with my own take on the results.
Optimism and trust are becoming scarce
Millennials’ expectations for the economy are the bleakest since Deloitte began asking the question eight years ago. They consistently express low opinions of political and religious leaders and have low levels of trust in the media, with our pessimism likely driven by income inequality and a lack of social mobility.
Do I agree?
Pretty much. For example, with Brexit, it can sometimes feel as though nobody knows what is happening. I think young people feel disenfranchised. I have only recently become eligible to vote and I cannot relate to any of the current political leaders.
The economy seems to have been volatile for as long as I can remember. Moreover, as is the case for many of my peers, owning a house is far from a given, or at least not without significant parental help or a lottery win.
Millennials remain sceptical of business’s motives
Millennials’ opinions about business continue to diminish, in part due to our views that businesses focus solely on making profits rather than considering their impact on society as a whole, Deloitte said. In fact, the percentage of millennials who said business has a positive impact on society fell to 55% from 61% in 2018. More millennials than ever (49%) would quit their current jobs in the next two years, if they were able to. As a generation, they are also more prepared to support businesses that have a positive impact on society.
People of my generation are prepared to send a strong message to a company if we disagree with its business practices by not buying its products. Change only occurs if we (the consumer) let companies know what we think, and people of my generation are much more forthright in giving feedback, maybe because of social media, which provides many new channels for dialogue. Big corporations can no longer ignore the views of their customers. This attitude also extends to the workplace, where people should feel empowered to express their views without fearing it will affect their job.
Millennials and Gen Zs value experiences over possessions
Travel was at the top of millennials’ list of aspirations (57%), while slightly fewer than half (49%) said they wanted to own their own home, Deloitte said.
Travel is very important for millennials and Gen Zs. For me personally, why would I spend £1,000 on a bag, when I could spend it on a two-week holiday instead? Spending money on travelling (which gives me so much more in terms of life experience) is more important than spending money on clothes or handbags.
They have a love/hate relationship with technology
Younger generations embrace technology and understand its benefits, with 71% of millennials feeling positive about their personal use of digital devices and social media, the survey found. However, more than half of the respondents said, on balance, that social media does more harm than good. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of millennials said they would be physically healthier if they reduced the amount of time they spent on social media, and 60% said it would make them happier people.
Cybersecurity concerns also loom large. Only 14% of millennials strongly agree that the benefits of technology outweigh the risks associated with sharing personal data.
Before last year the only cookie I cared about was the white chocolate and raspberry variety that I buy at Sainsbury’s.
Then the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force and my awareness of cybersecurity grew. Now I am convinced that Siri is listening in to my conversations (Siri, if you see this - don’t be mad, I still love you).
Fear of what companies are doing with our data is definitely growing – and rightly so.
I am still undecided about social media. It is a bit like eating at McDonald’s – although you love every last bite of that Big Mac, you don’t necessarily feel fantastic afterwards. Take Instagram, after wasting hours scrolling through pictures of beautiful people and their supposedly perfect lives, I definitely don’t feel great about myself.
Where do we go from here?
The survey results reveal a cohort of people who are troubled, disillusioned and dissatisfied.
But there is hope. Millennials and Gen Zs now make up more than half the world’s population and, together, account for most of the global workforce. Through our spending power, we can send strong messages to businesses about the kind of world we want to live in. This is a big opportunity for governments and businesses to start making positive changes.
Watch this space!
The views are those of the author. We cannot provide investment or pension advice; please speak to an independent adviser should you be uncertain what is appropriate for you.