In Their Own Words: The Financial Crisis from the Gen Z Perspective
Our country is in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression due to COVID-19, and every generation can feel it.
All over the news, there are reports of the millions of Americans who are unemployed and/or without their usual income due to the pandemic. Hours have been cut back, layoffs have been issued, and even huge companies like Sears and Kmart are closing stores all over the country leaving many people in desperate situations scrambling to find work. While I was reading articles about the recession and what that means for the American public, I wanted to know specifically how this recession has influenced the lives of my peers and their financial situation as high schoolers and college students.
I sat down with some friends to discuss their employment positions and how they have been affected. I have nine friends who were employed pre-pandemic and all nine were laid off or had their hours significantly reduced for at least four months. Most of them have been working since the age of 15, which led to another conversation about why they entered the workforce in high school. Most people said that they got a job so they could save up for a car and college. However, others expressed how their parents made them get a job so they could learn the value of money and start contributing to bills around the house. It was crazy to me that some of my friends were sharing the financial responsibilities around the house from age 15 and continued to be held responsible for them during the pandemic.
This led to a conversation about what the rest of our financial responsibilities are. Most of my friends talked about their obligation to pay their phone bill and car insurance. However, my friends who are transitioning to college this fall are also now financially responsible for their college education. My friends and I did the math on how much they will be paying monthly for their car insurance, gas, phone bill, and college education and the total came to around $1000. That is $12,000 a year. For teenagers working part-time, that is already a big number, but it becomes an impossible amount to fathom when you consider that all of them have either been laid off or had their pay reduced due to working fewer hours.
Luckily, my friends have been working for years now and have some money saved. But what about the Gen Zers who were not working pre-pandemic and are now taking on this responsibility? I asked some of my peers who had not entered the workforce yet about what their plan was to finance college and life after high school.
I was met with blank stares. Three of the people I was talking to had jobs lined up at the college they planned on attending in the fall; however, since these campuses will be operating through online learning for the first semester, they had to make adjustments and fast. They talked about the perils of trying to find a job during the pandemic, especially as people who have limited work experience. We also talked about the fact that they will most likely be relying on student loans to help finance at least the first few installments of their college education.
As a Gen Zer who is about to enter college myself, I too worry about how I am going to support myself while I am away. These kinds of fears are not uncommon in American households during this unprecedented time (which has become a phrase I am sure we are all well acquainted with). Every generation is getting hit and, through this blog, I hope I have shed some light on the rarely talked about financial impacts it has had and will continue to have for Generation Z.
Jordan Massey is interning for JDMA Inc. this summer. Ms. Massey will be entering her Freshman year at Marist College in the fall, where she will major in Political Science with the intention of attending law school once she finishes her undergraduate studies. Ms. Massey graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA and was a member of multiple honors societies.