The ways in which we think and feel about the world is in many ways, defined and influenced by the events and attitudes we grew up with. They shape the generational differences in our preferences in fashion, music, culture, and politics—and even in how we feel about money.
Here’s a quick look at recent generations and how the circumstances, events, and influences of their times molded their views.
THE GREATEST GENERATION: (1900-1925)
Members of this generation are few and far between. Those still with us are nearing their 100th birthdays. The Greatest Generation grew up after WWI and fought in WWII. They were assertive, energetic, and hard working. Thrifty and careful with finances, they balanced their checkbooks often, saved as much as they could, and preferred to repair things before buying new. Many grew up with little and learned to be creative about stretching a dollar.
THE SILENT GENERATION (1925-1954)
The Silent Generation, also referred to as the Traditionalists, grew up in a world where they were influenced by events including The Great Depression, World War II, the GI Bill, and the Cold War. Disciplined, cautious, and willing to make sacrifices, they lived in an era defined by conformity and prosperity. They’re savers, financially prudent, and so far, the richest, most free-spending retirees in history.
BABY BOOMERS (1946-1964)
Motivated by status and prestige, they value social, and career accomplishments, and tend to be more materialistic than their parents. Their drive and optimism served them well in the peak of their careers, however they often spent more than they could afford. Boomers snapped up credit cards, huge mortgages, and auto loans, spending more than the previous generation on homes, cars, vacations, and just about everything else. Boomers were the first generation to use the word “retirement” to mean enjoying life after their children left home.
GENERATION X (1965-1980)
Entrepreneurial and individualistic, this group grew up as two-income households became more common. Many Gen-Xers were latch-key kids who were left on their own while their parents worked. Generation X grew up when cash, checks, and credit cards were used interchangeably. They experienced the beginnings of the tech boom, computers, video games, wireless phones, and the internet. They learned to see money as both a tangible thing and as a concept reflected in numbers on a bank statement or computer screen. Gen-X tends to spend more on consumer goods and larger purchases such as education and housing. Most are deeply in credit card debt.
GEN-Y OR MILLENNIALS (1981-1996)
Millennials were born into a world that experienced the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, seemingly endless wars overseas, growing political and social unrest, and an inflated and often volatile economy that has made larger purchases like homes and cars more difficult if not out of reach for many. They tend to carry significant debt compared to other generations. Since their dollar doesn’t go as far as the generations before them, they tend to focus their money less on material goods and more on experiences. It’s worth noting; however, Millennials aren’t afraid to splurge on quality and convenience.
GENERATION Z (1997 AND LATER)
The oldest members of Gen Z are just now entering the workforce. They’re technologically savvy and actively manage their finances, making use online banking and smartphone apps. They are the least likely generation since the Traditionalists to take on any unnecessary debt. While eager to spend money, they also want to retire early so they’re serious about savings. They schedule everything. Even as children, they played a lead role in family’s purchasing and travel decisions.