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Generation Z and Millennials are finding it difficult to reach the same milestones as their parents did when they first ventured into the workforce.

For example, according to a survey by Youth & Money in the USA, 55% of young adults think it is “much harder” to buy a home, 44% said it is harder to find a job and 55% said it is harder to get promoted from CNBC and Generation Lab.

The survey surveyed 1,039 people ages 18 to 34 in the U.S. from October 25 to 30.

“This is just a snapshot of how young people perceive their lives compared to those of their parents,” said Cyrus Beschloss, founder of Generation Lab, an organization that has built the largest respondent database of young people in America.

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On a positive note, the survey found that 40% of Gen Zers and Millennials say it is easier for them to find economic opportunities outside of traditional employment.

The nature of work was already changing before the pandemic, said certified financial planner Blair duQuesnay, senior advisor at Ritholtz Wealth Management in New Orleans.

“The baby boomer generation worked for one company and in many cases stayed in one job throughout their career and retired with a pension. That doesn’t exist anymore,” said duQuesnay, who is also a CNBC FA Council member.

While these opportunities may not result in the kind of stability that allows young adults to buy a home, certain “sparks of optimism” stand out, “despite the pessimism about the nation and the world,” Beschloss added.

“Spark of Optimism”

According to the Youth & Money in the USA survey, about 50% of respondents believe that inflation will have a very negative impact on their future financial well-being. However, this could be a response to the current economic situation.

“Inflation has been the biggest narrative in the media over the last year or so,” said CFP Douglas A. Boneparth, president and founder of Bone Fide Wealth in New York. “We are bombarded with headlines about inflation, and we see inflation when we shop at the supermarket.”

On the bright side, Generation Lab’s Beschloss said that “there is hope in this data.”

For example, student loan debt is not causing 65% of Generation Z and Millennials to delay major life decisions such as getting married, starting a family or buying a home, the report says.

As of this point, 68% of respondents believe they have less than $20,000 in outstanding debt (including credit cards and student loans), which is “promising to hear,” duQuesnay said.

Additionally, contrary to popular belief, a majority (43%) of younger workers feel quite loyal to their employers.

“We have this idea that Gen Z workers cynically trudge to work, cash the paycheck so they can have a good quality of life, then quietly quit and do all these other things,” Beschloss said.

While such loyalty among younger workers may be “shocking,” it shows that employers have “done everything they can to improve employee morale,” duQuesnay said.

Gen Z, Millennials and the stock market

The majority of young people surveyed (63%) believe that the stock market is a good place to build wealth and invest. However, as Generation Z and Millennials have seen their wealth and financial stability “shattered by some kind of macroeconomic earthquake,” Beschloss says 37% of them disagree.

Distrust of the stock market may be related to younger adults’ upbringing, which may have left “a huge crater in their brains when it comes to their trust in the stock market,” he added.

“Experiencing the 2008 financial crisis as a child is probably a very formative experience,” duQuesnay said. “I’ve spoken to Gen Z investors who remember their parents losing their jobs or losing their house.”

Additionally, the emergence and rise of cryptocurrency represents an “exit from traditional financial systems,” added Boneparth, also a member of the CNBC FA Council.

It will take time for younger investors to see higher returns in the stock market, especially since those who joined in 2021 may have had those gains quickly wiped out by a bear market in 2022, duQuesnay added.

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