We know Gen Z to be a progressive bunch and the first to adopt emerging technologies. But members of this generation, made up of young people aged 23 and under, also handle their money differently. They’re comfortable with using digital wallets, and their level of economic participation is growing fast—two-thirds of them already have bank accounts.
Today, Gen Z represents 20 percent of the US population and has an estimated $140 billion in annual spending power. It’s a powerful and growing economic cohort, with cryptocurrency, particularly Bitcoin, forming an important pillar of their wealth potential. In fact, Bitcoin accounts for a third of all Gen Z crypto holdings.
“Gen Z really is ripe for Bitcoin usage, since they’ve grown up with so many services like PayPal, CashApp, and Apple Pay,” says Joe Harman, a certified bitcoin professional and member of the Blockchain Council. “These means of payment already have set the stage for the usage of a transfer of value as a form of payment, but in a peer-to-peer method.”
As a generation that’s grown up with digital currency and new investing platforms, Gen Z is poised to become a major driver of growth in the crypto market. Let’s take a look at the ways crypto could support the lifestyle, wealth-growing strategies, and real-world saving habits of Generation Z.
Building on the Millennial Mindset
While members of Gen Z tend to be a bit more cautious about investing than Millennials, there are strong indications that they might embrace Bitcoin to an even greater degree than the generation preceding them.
The evidence lies with Millennials and their habits. Today, Millennials have taken the lead in adopting Bitcoin as a new form of currency. In fact, research reveals that cryptocurrencies are three times more popular as investment vehicles with Millennials than they are with Gen X or Baby Boomers. This attraction to crypto stems in large part from Millennials’ comfort with new technologies and innovative investment products.
Given that Gen Z is entirely composed of “digital natives,” the propensity for adopting new platforms and products is likely to be even higher than that of Millennials. As more Gen Zers enter the job market and their income levels rise, crypto penetration is likely to exceed that of any prior generation.
“Gen Z are digitally native, and as they mature into a more responsible mindset, they will accept that Bitcoin has value without asking as many questions as their parents,” explains Brad Mills, a bitcoin expert and partner at Xsquared Ventures.
Getting Off the Beaten Path
Another important factor in crypto adoption among Gen Zers is their lived experience of recent market conditions. After reaching maturity in a post-recession world, witnessing the effects of that turbulent economy on their parents’ and family members’ financial prospects, and then plunging into a labor market that’s been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen Z is increasingly skeptical of traditional institutions and pathways toward financial stability.
That makes them more amenable toward crypto as a newer, alternative means to bolster their finances and help them meet their goals. In other words, the biggest game-changer is how crypto is shifting their perceptions of money.
“Bitcoin has changed the way people think of money—especially for individuals in the Gen Z age bracket,” says Dr. Sean Stein Smith, who is on the board of advisors of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance. “Growing up in the shadows of Millennials and the Great Recession has provided painful examples of how the incumbent financial system might not always put the individual first.”
Finding New Ways to Save
Interestingly enough, Gen Zers are big-time savers. According to a study by the Center for Generational Kinetics, 77 percent of young people aged 21 or under are already earning their own money, either through wages, freelancing, or a part-time gig. Shockingly, 21 percent of them had their own savings account by the age of 10.
But because they lack much of the reluctance toward adopting Bitcoin that older generations display, and they’ve grown up in a world where Bitcoin has proven to be a strong source of value, they are more open to investing in Bitcoin in the long run, Mills explains.
“They don’t start the Bitcoin conversation by thinking that ‘Bitcoin is backed by nothing, how can it have value?’” he says. “Because Bitcoin just does have value, they don’t have the false notion that [for example] dollars are backed by gold.”
What’s more, a recent survey Mills conducted found that Gen Z members are more likely to choose stocks over Bitcoin initially. However, they’re also highly interested in learning more about Bitcoin. “Once they’re educated, they’ll choose Bitcoin over stocks, cash, or gold,” says Mills.
Although they’re still many decades away from reaching their golden years, Gen Zers are already planning for retirement. Thirty-five percent of this generation plan to start saving for retirement in their 20s, and 12 percent are already putting aside funds for their nest egg. They plan on funding their retirement in a mix of ways, including crypto.
DIY Meets BTC
A recent Merrill Lynch Report found that Gen Z members are idealists who prefer to take a do-it-yourself approach to finance. As crypto allows investors to exercise a high degree of control over their funds, this will most likely be an appealing route for Gen Zers.
The key appeal of Bitcoin, as Dr. Smith points out, is the ability to take back control and ownership of one’s personal finances and savings.
“By reducing fees, cutting out intermediaries, and democratizing the ability to save and create wealth, crypto puts the opportunity to grow financially squarely in the hands of the people who hold it,” says Dr. Smith.
Mapping Out a Crypto Investing Plan
One way that Gen Z can get started on the path to growing wealth is by getting educated about the different crypto options out there, given that there are literally thousands of currencies to choose from.
The first step is taking a look at easy-to-use platforms like BlockFi, which enables investors to earn interest on their crypto holdings, take out loans without selling off any crypto assets, or trade between different types of cryptocurrencies.
“Gen Z can figure out what kind of exposure and investment they want to get from the crypto space, and dip their toes into the pool,” says Stein Smith. “All investment carries risk, but a well-thought-out, well-researched crypto plan can give someone exposure to crypto in a way they’re most comfortable with.”
The growth potential for this young, emerging demographic is tremendous. And Bitcoin—as well as cryptocurrency in general—is poised to play a critical role in establishing Gen Z as an economic powerhouse in the US and abroad.
“As Gen Z gets older, they start to build up savings and learn about the perils of fiat money, I think the ones that discover the Bitcoin rabbit hole will turn to storing their wealth in Bitcoin,” says Mills. “In turn, they’ll take control of their financial sovereignty.”