The Youth Lab


How are young people really feeling about finances today? We’ve written recently about how new narratives like Eat The Rich, centred around wealth and finance, are taking hold in cultural consciousness like never before. In fact, Eat The Rich is predicted to be a dominant creative narrative of 2023 (Contagious). As the cost of living crisis puts increased pressure on pockets and lifestyles across the globe, we’re seeing a reassessment of financial management and culture around money. This week’s 52INSIGHTS explores the latest trends and conversations around young generations' attitudes to wealth and their relationship with money.


To understate it, there’s a stressful energy around the topic of money and finance at the moment, accentuated by the cost of living crisis, but building on years of barriers to wealth accumulation (housing crisis, low income relative to home ownership etc.). With an even greater tightening on purses in 2022-2023, many young people are forced into reducing their spending, yet saving (for those who can) hasn’t completely gone out the window. Many are adopting a “soft-saving” strategy, saving money in the short-term for experiences that are accessible to them. Saving for the long-term is being reappraised given the idea of ever retiring feels out of reach. 47% of 18- to 24 year olds surveyed by GOBankingRates haven’t started saving for retirement and have very limited savings to fall back on. In fact, youth today are estimated to have approximately half of the wealth equivalent of generations before them. Youth attitudes around finance are also being impacted by their ability to actually acquire wealth. World Economic Forum data shows us that the “American dream” has essentially been reduced by half- individuals born in 1980 have only a 45% chance of outearning their parents at age 30, compared to 93% for those born in 1940.

Yeaneah, 23, via The Love Network, is saving hard right now to change her current situation - “My thought process is like, it's gonna be really crappy for the next three, four months, but if I just put my head down and work and save, I can move to the Caribbean and do what I'm doing here but in the sun and maybe try get a better paid job.” The pressure to spend is being challenged. ‘De-influencing’, now with over 357 million views on TikTok, growing exponentially since we last wrote about the phenomenon, is an example of creators and young citizens rejecting the culturally architectured desire to spend money on so-called hype items and avoiding expensive purchases.


“It’s about learning a new way to live in harmony with your finances. If you don’t understand it well, you don’t manage it properly, it could really ruin your life.” Seema Sheth, TikTok

Understanding money and finances is essential to security in later life, but education has often been subject to gatekeeping or real conversation felt like a taboo topic. Real financial advice is often lacking in formal education. The gap in understanding is reflected in a focus on the importance of financial literacy - 93% of American teenagers believe they need financial knowledge and skills to achieve their life goals. Organisations like Gen Z For Financial Literacy, are focusing on education through content that speaks to the audience.

According to Credit Karma, nearly half of Gen Z respondents said they relied on social media for financial advice. A quarter said they learned more about money from content creators than school or books. With this, finance influencers are on the rise, with an 8% growth on TikTok and Youtube, taking to social media channels to explain how to understand investing or create a budget. We enjoyed Peter Komolafe sharing his inspiring perspective at DO Lectures on this topic. Speaking to Business Insider, 24 year old Nate Hoskin reinforced why he is sharing his financial advice on TikTok - "The reason I was put on this earth is to help people who don't traditionally get access to financial advice. This is gate-kept, because it is unfortunately not very profitable for someone like me to offer those services to someone who won't pay me at least like $10,000 a year or something like that."


‘Money in itself won’t feed me.’ - Amahra Spence at JRF Imagination Infrastructuring

Financial conversations can bring pressure and uncomfortable feelings with them. This is just one reason as to why we’re seeing a move away from flex culture online (where creators display wealth with expensive items and trips), to a culture less of comparison and competition. Young people, often more socially conscious, are interested in living life their way and opening their eyes to the experiences of others. A life that feels rich doesn’t necessarily mean hitting big financial goals, it can be about spreading the wealth for your community. More aspirational than flexing wealth, when a crisis hits, the creator community responds - encouraging and incentivising their followers to donate to a cause. Ethically ambiguous videos of people giving away money have become a trend too.

As young people’s relationship to work continues to shift, with a de-prioritisation of salary and increased focus on balance, yolo energy is all around. With long-term financial goals out of reach, why not book the flight or do something joyous instead? Our Youth Culture Uncovered research revealed that young people are focusing on creating little moments of joy, a method of coping with worrying about their futures thanks to rising costs and rents. (Ongoing work into this subject has revealed more invaluable insight - read on for info on how to access this hot-off-the-press UK qualitative 16-35 youth data).

There are those balancing this desire for adventure and creating a sense of freedom, without relying on money in the same way as before, like the digital nomad. Spain recently launched their Digital Nomad visa, which makes it easier for people outside of the EU to live and work in Spain. Other countries and organisations are publicising similar offers with packages that support unique travel experiences and co-working opportunities. Ultimately for youth today, experience and adventure outweighs the cost. According to a survey from Personal Capital, 55% of respondents aged 26 - 41 said they spend more time planning for vacations than their retirement. The phrase on repeat for some is: “I’ll make my money back, but I’ll never be in my 20s and travelling to [location] again,” being a viral TikTok trend.


Financial Empowerment: With continued pressures in life, young people are taking more control of their finances, whatever way they choose. Brands and businesses have an opportunity to offer young people some form of financial empowerment. This can be consistently offering citizens something of value, where your product or service is a worthwhile investment and serves a purpose. “People want to get more value for their money, they don’t want to feel like they’re overpaying. There's money to be spent, people are just looking for more bang for their buck." - Sarah Hanrahan, Content Creator, speaking at our Youth Culture Uncovered Event

Being a brand that can help young people become more financially empowered can start within your organisation as well. Employers can offer clear opportunities for growth, being more transparent on benefits and salaries. Be prepared to adapt and offer up more individualised packages that suit the individual and are considered fair in the eyes of youth.

Divides & Social Realism: From a creative perspective, these themes are seeping through into how youth culture is expressed online. Rather than focusing on wealth-aspiration, there is an opportunity for brands to tap into the reframing of what a ‘rich life’ really is - rooted in more sustainable living, genuine connection and personal growth.

“There seems to be signs in tech, art, marketing and food that we are witnessing a new form of normcore. This time not as some postmodern fashion statement, but rather as a way to deal with the identity crisis more and more people are experiencing dealing with the reality of the big [wealth] divide…This recession, suddenly, the rich are not the aspirational icons of our dreams, they are the villains in our films. This recession, people and brands will celebrate social realism – that is the biggest story of our time.” Tom Beckman, Contagious


We’re excited to announce that we have more to share from our annual Youth Culture Uncovered research on what it’s really like to be young today, Our upcoming webinar, a must-have for senior marketers responsible for making and keeping brands relevant today, features hot-off-the-press UK qualitative 16-35 youth data, interviews with young people in the UK, US and Europe and the latest global research, that explores how brands can help young people create joy and purpose in a f**ked up world. It’s an ideal session for those in Brand, Insights or Marketing teams with a UK or International remit who want to understand the post-Covid cultural landscape and be inspired by examples of brands that resonate with this audience. If you would like to find out more please contact .