How the 2008 crash made GenZ one of the most frugal generations in history

GenZ is one of the most fiscally frugal, pragmatic and entrepreneurial generations to hit this country in a while.

Graph of the DOW during the 2008 crash. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Key events shape generations. For Millennials, they were raised in the steady 1990’s by the Baby Boomer’s, who wanted a comfy life for their children. In 2000 and 2008 however, Millennials found their comfort shook through financial crises.

For GenZ, they grew up in the age of internet, smartphones, same-sex marriage, the first black president, and they witnessed their parents or older siblings struggle, either from student debt or the 2008 crash.

Watching adults struggle during the second worst recession in U.S. history has made GenZ one of the most fiscally conservative generations in the U.S. since their grandparents. This contrasts the Millennial generation, known for being the “me” generation and having loads of student debt.

Millennials have on average $33,000 in student debt. GenZ averages $11,000, despite rising college costs. One reason is that GenZ students are more likely than Millennials to attend a less prestigious college to save money, even if they got accepted to a big name college.

“I definitely think growing up in a time of hardship, global conflict, and economic troubles has affected my future,” said highschooler Semi Park, who has opted to pursue law, rather than her dream of fashion, for financial security. GenZ concurs with Semi; 70% of GenZ college students prioritize financial security over passion when picking their career.

However, It’s not just that Millennials were uneducated about the dangers of student debt. Millennials still owe on average $42,000 in debt, most of which is not from student debt. It’s from credit card debt.

The average millennial spends just as much money on discretionary spending, like eating out or shopping, as they do on paying down debt, causing a tricky lifestyle of endless debt. Clearly, there is a different attitude towards money when comparing Millennials with GenZ.

In a study where GenZ students were asked what they would do with a $500 bonus, 84% stated they would save the money. 85% of GenZ students also plan to work during college.

Fiscal frugality and work ethic can also be seen in past generations that lived through recessions. The Silent Generation, which lived through the Great Depression, developed key traits of thriftiness, drive, and money management. Not coincidentally, the Silent Generation then drove much of the post-World War II boom.


Today, similarities can be seen with GenZ. Not only are they fiscally conservative, but they’re also highly entrepreneurial — almost a contradiction to their risk averse mentality regarding money. Entrepreneurs among younger generations value creativity, ethics, social impact, and hustling, thus creating a competitive business landscape of innovation and progress. As the oldest of GenZ begins to graduate college and enter the workforce, we may finally see the long-run impact of the 2008 financial crisis.

Liked this article? Check out The Consequences of Lifestyle Inflation or Should you invest in gold before the next recession?

To get in touch with the author Christina G. Gayton, check out her work at or on instagram @christigabriella.

Social Media Manager, Digital Marketer. | | @xtinagayton on social media

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store