Financial experts had predicted that “Generation Z,” comprised of young people born after 1996, would be one of the most financially responsible generations in recent memory.

Then “Gen Z” was blindsided by COVID-19, along with the rest of us.

Schools closed; they were sent home. Businesses shut down; eliminating many part-time and full-time jobs. Outside activities ceased; most everyone went into hibernation.

“Generation Z is experiencing the economic equivalent of being out for a run, turning a corner and running smack into a brick wall,” says The Financial Brand digital publication.

Uncertainty looms for college-age Gen Z’ers and those already in the workforce just at the exact time they should be starting to build their independence and self-reliance.

This latest generation was in line to inherit a strong economy with record-low unemployment.

But COVID-19 abruptly reshaped our country’s social, political and economic landscape. Instead of looking ahead to a world of opportunities, Gen Z was faced with an uncertain future.

In fact, the oldest Gen Z’ers (ages 18 to 23) have been hardest hit, reporting they or someone in their household has lost a job or taken a cut in pay because of the outbreak.

Experts say Gen Z was shaping up to be a generation that would take early responsibility for its financial affairs seriously. Despite all the turmoil, they still seem to have clear financial goals that are usually associated with later life stages.

One study assessing “The State of Gen Z” says of these young people:

91 percent hope to buy their own house someday.

69 percent think retirement savings should be a personal priority.

66 percent worry about not being able to pay off school loans.

55 percent say their parents have the greatest influence on how they deal with money.

36 percent don’t feel prepared to make financial decisions.

The study also reports that Gen Z’ers are becoming even more fiscally conservative than they already were, perhaps a response to watching their parents struggle during the Great Recession, leaving a deep impression that financial security is critical.

These young consumers apparently crave guidance on budgeting, saving money, and retirement planning – topics about which local banks can provide much information.

In spite of all that has happened, Gen Z actually is populated by more optimists than pessimists, according to the data.

Almost 70 percent say that they feel optimistic for the future, due in part to confidence that scientists will find a cure for COVID-19.

Clearly, their lives got stirred, but their attitudes, values and optimism are unshaken.

Interestingly, the pandemic has also generated a renewed appreciation for the importance of shopping locally. Four out of ten Gen Z respondents said that they would do more buying with small businesses as the country reopens.

Said one Gen Z’er: “I have never been as conscious as to who my money affects. It made me a lot more selfless and wanting to support local business.”

Surprising but very wise perspectives from members of our youngest generation, who have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones.

Wow!

Chuck Jones, Chief Communications Officer at Citizens Bank in Batesville, can be reached at 870-698-6233, or by email, chuckj@thecitizensbank.net.