While millennials have gotten more of the attention when it comes to their financial situation, Generation Z are now starting to reach their college years. Born after 1995, Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with so much technology around them — and they're more aware of their finances and the benefits of financial literacy.
Research and analysis firm Raddon surveyed more than 2,500 teens and found that two-thirds of the group already have a bank account and are three times more likely to have taken a financial class compared to the millennial generation.
Just because this generation is more financially aware, it doesn't mean they don't face some stress like paying for college, getting a job and budgeting for the real world. Although it's far away for most of them, understanding how to save for retirement should also be on top of Gen Z's list.
Looking towards their financial future doesn't need to be scary. If you're part of Gen Z (or a parent of a Gen Z child), here's what you can do to help prepare.
Good vs. bad debt
Maybe Gen Z has witnessed millennials talk to no end about their student loan debt and are a bit worried about taking out any loans. Although debt can be bad, loans do serve their purpose in their financial lives — namely building credit, getting funds to go to college or a large purchase like a home.
Instead of telling them debt is bad, show them what it means to manage loans properly. It could mean learning to use credit cards wisely, what it means to make more than the minimum payments and how doing so builds their credit score. It might also be helpful to talk about why it's more important to get rid of high interest debt first — e.g. increase their net worth and free up money for savings.
Take advantage of employer benefits
Getting a new job can be more exciting that just getting paid. It's all about the benefits. Suggest that your child looks through the employee handbook to see what's covered, especially any employer-sponsored retirement plans like the 401(k). In most cases, an employer will match an employee's contributions up to a certain percent of their paycheck. Yes, we're talking about free money.
Even if your child can't afford to contribute the full amount, he or she can start small — even 1% — and work on increasing that amount. Investing small amounts when you're young is fine because you've got time on your side. Let compound interest do its thing.
Beef up your HSA
Some employers offer what's called a high deductible health plan that qualifies for an HSA. Even if your child is young and healthy, this is a great account to save on taxes, healthcare expenses and even retirement.
That's right, depending on your HSA provider, these accounts let you invest money from your HSA account once it reaches a certain threshold. The money can sit there until you need to use it for qualified medical expenses. Some even let it sit there as long as possible until 65, when you can withdraw this money penalty-free (it will only be subject to income taxes at that point).
Retirement can be a scary subject, especially for the young. However, the more they're aware of what it takes to save and stay the course will reap financial benefits for years to come.
Whether it's for covering medical expenses, or planning bigger investments, our Future Healthy column will help support your path to retirement, no matter where you are on the journey. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to check out our HSA Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.