Generation Z, the nation’s youngest adults, aim to retire at 59, a full 12 years before baby boomers and older generations.
According to a study from Northwestern Mutual, Gen Z, particularly those Americans between the ages of 18 and 25, had the highest levels of confidence in their careers and in their ability to achieve financial security.
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As a result, they expect to retire at 59. In comparison, millennials expect to retire at 61, Generation X at 65, and “Boomers+” at 71.
The most negative outlook came from Gen X, which had the lowest confidence that Social Security would be there when they need it at 43%, compared with 52% for millennials, 55% for Gen Z and 70% for baby boomers and older, the study found.
Gen X also has the most pessimistic view on the question of “I have achieved/will achieve long-term financial security” at 58%. That compared with millennials at 66% and both Gen Z and baby boomers and older at a more optimistic 70%, according to the study.
During the pandemic, Gen Z was the most likely to build savings and begin working with an adviser. The study also showed that these young adults were more confident about their careers and in their ability to achieve financial security.
That confidence comes with caveats, however. Gen Z adults were also the most inclined to say their financial planning needs improvement. They also struggle more with mental health than any other age group.
Seven in 10 adults from the Gen Z group reported higher savings over that time period. They were also more likely to seek professional financial help, with 29% saying they did not have an adviser before the pandemic, but have either started working with one or plan to moving forward. Despite that, close to 75% of Gen Z adults said their financial planning needs improvement.
“It’s encouraging to see the youngest generation of adults showing an inclination to plan and holding themselves to a high bar,” said Christian Mitchell, executive vice president and chief customer officer at Northwestern Mutual.
“Developing a plan isn’t just the first step toward achieving your long-term goals, it’s also what allows you to enjoy your life more along the way. With greater clarity around how to balance spending and saving, you’re able to live more in the moment and still have confidence in the future,” Mitchell said.
While Gen Z is looking forward to an early retirement, money is not what drives most of them at work, the research says. Nearly two-thirds (64%) said personal fulfillment is more important in a career than money (36%).
But contentment is elusive, and Gen Z’s assessment of their own mental health stands out as considerably more fragile than all other age groups. The study found that 44% of Gen Z reported their mental health as weak or very weak compared with only 26% for all U.S. adults.