'Give Everything To Us NOW': Gen Z's Main Career Goal Is To Make Lots Of Money So They Can Be Richer Than Their Parents — They're Willing To Work Hard But Not For A 'Mediocre Life'

For a generation raised during recessions and skyrocketing costs, Gen Z has a surprisingly pragmatic view of work. Forget the stereotypes about the youngest group of employees demanding unlimited flexibility or prioritizing social impact over paychecks. When it comes down to it, Gen Z wants one thing above all else: to make more money than their parents.

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A new survey of 2,000 Gen Zers from the writing platform EduBirdie reveals that while work-life balance and enjoyment are important goals, cash remains king. A full 31% of respondents said their main career aim is to make lots of money. Compare that to only 12% who said their focus was making a positive impact on society.

This aligns with a popular post on Reddit’s Adulting forum where a Gen Z user posted “Older generations need to realize Gen Z will NOT work hard for a mediocre life.” The post continued, “I’m sick of boomers telling Gen Z and millennials to suck it up when we complain that a $60K or less salary shouldn’t force us to live mediocre lives living frugally like with roommates, not eating out, not going out for drinks, no vacations.”

The Redditor stated, “Gen Z should not have to struggle just because older generations struggled. Give everything to us NOW.”

While that last demand comes across as somewhat entitled, Gen Z does have a pragmatic point — they don’t want to make sacrifices and live a restricted lifestyle if they are working hard. As the Reddit user expressed, mediocre wages of around $60,000 per year or less are, in their view, not enough for a decent standard of living.

It’s not that Gen Z is greedy or unambitious. They have big financial dreams: become homeowners, pay off student loans and achieve true financial independence from their families. But having grown up in an ever-uncertain economy with one crisis after another, Gen Z understands that realizing those goals requires a hefty salary higher than previous generations may have needed.

As EduBirdie’s data lead Ksenia Hubska told Fortune, “Gen Z’s way of working and living reflects a modern American Dream. They prioritize happiness over just money, value family and aim for a stable future.” Essentially, Gen Z wants the good life their boomer grandparents achieved, but without having to accept a modest or “mediocre” standard of living to get there.

Show Me The Money: What Gen Z Will Sacrifice

Just how motivated by money is Gen Z? The EduBirdie survey results show this generation is willing to make significant sacrifices for a bigger paycheck:

  • 41% would give up working remotely for a raise
  • 37% would ditch hobbies and side hustles
  • 31% would see friends less often

While work-life balance has been the rallying cry for millennials, it seems Gen Z has a different mindset. EduBirdie’s findings suggest they see making top dollar as the key to actually having a life outside of work and the means to focus on health, family and pursuing passions.

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This drive could position Gen Z to potentially out-earn their parents in a way millennials may struggle with. Sixty-three percent of Gen Z respondents said that although their parents weren’t wealthy, they aim to be. And 20% said their parents were wealthy and they wanted to reach that same status.

In contrast, research has shown over half of millennials expect to receive at least a $350,000 inheritance from their boomer parents, which could make them more complacent about matching their parents’ earnings.

Don’t Call Them Lazy

Despite their reputation as the lazy generation, EduBirdie’s data paints Gen Z as highly motivated when it comes to work — they just have different end goals than prior generations. They’re willing to put in the work but not for a lifestyle they deem mediocre.

For companies struggling to entice Gen Z employees to return to office life, increasing compensation may be the best strategy. Gen Z has clearly shown they’ll make sacrifices and compromises if it means a bigger paycheck is waiting on the other side.

If employers want Gen Z’s talent and productivity, they may need to rethink what they’re offering in terms of salaries and career advancement opportunities. This is a generation that won’t be lured back to office life by half-measures or mediocre wages — they need to see a pathway to their “modern American Dream” of wealth and work-life balance.

The New American Dream Uniting Gen Z And Older Generations

Whether you’re a Gen Zer determined to out-earn your parents or an older worker looking to grow your wealth for retirement, the best way to align your career with your financial goals is to consult a professional financial adviser. An adviser can provide a customized plan to maximize your income, rein in expenses and put you on track to achieve your American dream, whatever that looks like. 

From budgeting tactics to investment strategies, a financial adviser has the expertise to ensure you’re making the right money moves at every stage of your career. With recessions and economic volatility now the norm, getting professional guidance is the smartest way for any generation to reach their desired level of prosperity and lifestyle.

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*This information is not financial advice, and personalized guidance from a financial adviser is recommended for making well-informed decisions.

Jeannine Mancini has written about personal finance and investment for the past 13 years in a variety of publications including Zacks, The Nest and eHow. She is not a licensed financial adviser, and the content herein is for information purposes only and is not, and does not constitute or intend to constitute, investment advice or any investment service. While Mancini believes the information contained herein is reliable and derived from reliable sources, there is no representation, warranty or undertaking, stated or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information.

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