The Dark Side of Millennials and Gen Z Finances: How 85% and 83% Engage in Financial Deception

Ever scroll through social media wondering how your friends can afford luxurious trips or the latest gadgets? Well, the truth is they probably can’t and are struggling to keep up with appearances.

woman with fancy mask half-covering her face
Image Credit: zastavkin via

Unfortunately, money is often shrouded in secrecy, and the taboo surrounding money discussions can lead young Americans to suffer from anxiety and dysfunction when it comes to money.

According to a new survey released today by Accrue Savings, the “save now, buy soon” startup, young Americans are struggling with a cycle of financial dysfunction and anxiety, and older generations have benefitted from comparatively flush periods of growth and calm.

Millennials and Gen Z need to save for housing and education, while Boomers and Gen X need to save for vacations and new cars.

“Millennials and Gen Z have experienced constant economic uncertainty: entering the job market during a massive economic downturn, Millennials have struggled to gain financial stability and have been hit with tidal wave after a tidal wave of world-shaking events. Gen Z has had to cope with technology pushing perfection, head-spinning U.S. and global politics, and a looming recession,” said Michael Hershfield, founder, and CEO, of Accrue Savings.

“Consumers want to prepare for an uncertain future, but the effect of the financial crunch younger generations have felt is also very clear: they are spending beyond their means, they feel pressure to keep up appearances, and they are anxious about saving.”

Financial Deception Is Almost Universal

Younger generations are more susceptible to the toxicity of self-deception about their financial status, and are more likely to buy items outside of their budget – leading them to financial insecurity.

Everyone is lying – at least sometimes. Only a small percentage of younger generations says that they never lie about their financial situation:

  • 15% of Gen Z

  • 18% of Millennials

  • 27% of Gen X

  • 58% of Baby Boomers

Younger generations are also more likely to make purchases outside of their budget – with only a small percentage citing that they “Never” knowingly purchase beyond their means:

  • 5% of Gen Z

  • 5% of Millennials

  • 16% of Gen X

  • 22% of Baby Boomers

Meanwhile, significant portions of those generations struggle with financial dysmorphia – often spending  beyond their means:

  • Gen Z: 28%

  • Millennials: 22%

  • Gen X: 13%

  • Baby Boomers: 5%

Fear and Loathing About Finances

Younger generations are struggling with saving and impulsive spending behaviors, while older generations have it built into their DNA.

Buy Now… Pay Never?

Consumers increasingly use Buy Now, Pay Later apps for purchases – giving more air between the joyous rush of purchasing and the pain of repayment – but this has negative consequences:

  • One-third of consumers have used a Buy Now, Pay Later platform – and most likely for small purchases: Clothing (for Gen Z and Millennials) and electronics (Gen X and Baby Boomers)

  • 44% of consumers using BNPL have missed a payment

Younger generations will often use credit to pay down loans: Over one-third of consumers surveyed use credit cards to pay for Buy Now, Pay Later purchases (with Millennials using credit cards almost half of the time):

  • Gen Z: 38%

  • Millennials: 44%

  • Gen X: 36%

  • Baby Boomers: 21%

Savings Behaviors

The majority of people are saving for a purchase over $500, including travel plans, home goods, or major milestone purchases like cars and homes:

  • Over half of all consumers are saving for a major purchase:

    • Baby Boomers and Gen X are most likely saving for vacations and cars

    • Millennials and Gen Z are focused on saving for education and home payments

  • 3 out of 5 consumers have successfully saved for a major purchase in the past year

    • Gen Z was most likely saving for clothing

    • Millennials for electronics

    • Gen X and Boomers for a vacation

More From A Dime Saved:

Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.