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Help! My child thinks money grows in phones

02 August 2017

How To Speak Genz

Born between 1995 and 2006, Australia’s six million or so Gen Zers (click on the above image for the full chart from Mccrindle) are apparently “almost exclusively the children of Generation X”.  Whoever decided this fact did not take me into account: a tail-end baby boomer whose partner at the time (also a tail-end baby boomer) came late to pregnancy. Our teenager, born in 2002, is well and truly a Gen Z.

Thankfully, I can’t be held responsible for Gen Y - the cohort that precedes Gen Z and has been variously described as “narcissistic brats who expect the boss to fetch them coffee”; as well as “lazy, debt-ridden, programmed for instant gratification with demanding, unrealistic career aspirations.”

Raised by Baby Boomers it’s no wonder Gen Y turned out the way they have.

Gen Ys grew up in sunny times. Financially, things were pretty good. Globally, it was relatively peaceful, and Australia had the Olympics. The problem for Gen Y is their sunny world fell apart with events like September 11 and the aftermath of the War on Terror; The Global Financial Crises and Australian housing prices. Their world is more Paradise Lost than Garden of Eden. It’s a world that was - and still is - run by Baby Boomers.

As I said, Millennials are not my responsibility. My contribution is a member of Gen Z.

What do Gen Z - iGen, Post Millennials, Plurals – teenagers look like?

The Worldwide Director of the Innovation Group, J. Walter Thompson’s in-house futures and innovation think tank, Lucie Greene, has pigeon-holed them and Gen Ys thus:

“If Hannah Horvath from ‘Girls’ is the typical Millennial — self-involved, dependent, flailing financially in the real world as her expectations of a dream job and life collide with reality — then Alex Dunphy from ‘Modern Family’ represents the Gen Z antidote. Alex is a true Gen Z: conscientious, hard-working, somewhat anxious and mindful of the future.”

Interestingly, the Gen Zs I know fit the bill. From the very beginning they have inhabited a bleaker world. A world of financial crises, housing affordability issues, global terrorism, fulltime connectedness and the pressures and bullying that can come with that.

Gen Ys might be digital, raised on PCs, iMacs, the worldwide web, Gameboys and Furbies, but they’re not always on and connected as Gen Zs are - raised on Smartphones, mobile devices and social media.

(Thankfully, Gen Zs have learnt from those before them not to post photos of themselves with bucket bongs and yard-glasses in their hands. Snapchat and Whisper not Instagram and Facebook are their go tos.)

It may be a little early to ask, but are they better with money than their Gen Y brothers and sisters? Some say yes.

I’ve been an abject failure as a role model and teacher when it comes to saving and budgeting, spending and not spending. Unable to face the confrontation and not wanting to be a disappointment I’ve left my Gen Zer thinking money grows in phones.

According to a Cambridge University study, by the age of seven a child will have grasped how to recognise the value of money and to count it out. Big fail here for me. Instead of playing shop I hid money like Easter Eggs for her to find. Money remains unreal, a plaything for her. (Although, she does know what 20 and 2 cent pieces look and feel like.)

Children by seven also understand that money can be exchanged for goods, and that to earn money – have an income - you work. I’ve failed here, massively. I worked as a freelancer from home and hid my work so she would always think I was available. I also made myself available. As for income, it arrived magically if I remembered to invoice.

Apparently, so the study goes on to note, a seven year old is also capable of complex functions such as planning ahead, delaying a decision until later and understanding that some choices are irreversible. Oops. I undermined what she was capable of understanding and doing by buying her what she wanted when she wanted it.

She earns money at holiday jobs now, but is still spending mine when we go out. She tells me she will pay me back with her earnings, but has spent them hundreds of times over. Why is there the disconnect between the amount she has earned and the amount she owes me? It’s because I have provided her with no concept of the value of money. Let alone lessons on how to save, budget, and discern the difference between a want and a need.

It would seem I can’t escape my Baby Boomer destiny: I’ve raised a Gen Y in a Gen Z era.

(In a further attempt to abrogate all responsibility, I'll get her to have a look at Year 13.)

Join Ruby for a FREE webinar on 16 August at 1pm around teaching your children the value of money in a cashless society with Westpac’s Davidson Institute Financial Literacy expert Bronwyn Lawson.

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