After two years of financial ups and downs, young Europeans’ finances are stabilizing. So what are their top financial goals now?
- Young Europeans are most focused on putting money in their savings accounts and earning more income
- While Gen Z is taking their first steps into financial responsibility, Millennials are leveling up to reach adult milestones
- U.K. consumers’ difficult financial situation has them looking toward becoming debt-free
The pandemic hit young consumers’ finances hard as jobs disappeared and bills stacked up, leading young Europeans to adopt a cost-conscious mindset. YPulse’s WE luxury research found that 40% of 13-39-year-olds are spending less this year compared to last in order to save money, while just 17% say they’re feeling more freedom to buy things they don’t need. At the same time, though, our recent WE Finance and Spending report shows that young Europeans’ finances are rebounding, along with their employment—68% are currently employed compared to 62% in August 2021, and more than a quarter have more than one stream of income. Meanwhile, the majority have savings and the minority have debt, indicating a fairly strong financial position.
In the wake of this steady recovery, we wanted to know where their priorities currently lie. We asked young 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe to tell us their top financial goal for the year. Here’s what they had to say:
Their Top Financial Goals for 2022
Among 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe
- Save money
- Increase income
- Financial freedom / stability / live comfortably
- Find a job
- Buy a house
- Be debt free
- Buy a car
- Be rich
- Pay for school / university
- Pay bills
- Home improvements
- Start a business / company
“Save money” and “increase income” are by far young Eurpoeans’ top financial goals this year, indicating that as much as their bank accounts may be bouncing back, the pandemic has taught them to be prepared. In fact, in 2020 and 2021, Europeans went from saving about 12% of their income to stashing away an average of 19%, leading the International Monetary Fund to estimate that Europeans are now sitting on some €1 trillion in savings. And it doesn’t look like young Europeans want to stop there—“save money” and “earn more money” were also two of their top New Year’s resolutions this year. The latter is also partially prompting the Great Resignation, a topic YPulse explored in last year’s What’s Next for Work trend report, which examined how the pandemic has reshaped Gen Z and Millennials’ overall relationship to work. In fact, 28% have resigned from a job in the past year, and the top reason they give is “I got an offer to be in a more senior position elsewhere”—which likely also means higher pay and more padding for the savings account, too.
Find a job, buy a house, and be debt-free are also high on their list of financial goals, but how important these are varies by generation:
While both Gen Z and Millennials list “save money” and “increase income” as their two top goals, the younger generation is more likely to be focused on finding a job and paying for school while Millennials are moving into the next level of adulthood by setting their sights on homeownership. In fact, in our WE Life Milestones and Future Plans report, 77% of Millennials say owning a home is a personal goal for them, and 36% of those say it became more important to them because of the pandemic. Millennials are also far more likely to say that being debt-free is a top financial goal this year, reflecting the fact that many of the older gen are saddled with student debt. In fact, our Life Milestones data shows that 79% of Millennials say paying off debt is an important goal to them personally, and 33% say this became more important because of the pandemic. Millennials in Western Europe were falling behind financially even before the pandemic, and it’s clear that they’re ready to take control of their financial futures.
Gen Z, meanwhile, is just stepping into their financial maturity, and their focus is less on recovering and more on finally reaching financial independence. But they’re also focused on spending for pleasure, too. Sixth on their list of top financial goals this year is “travel,” and when we asked them to rank their top financial priorities from a preset list, “saving for a splurge item came in at number one.
Pulling back out, investing is also one of the 13-39-year-olds’ top financial goals this year, a trend we’ve seen steadily increase as cryptocurrency and NFTs continue to trend across social media and young consumers aim to get rich—number nine on their list. YPulse’s WE personal finances survey found that 13% of 13–39-year-olds in Western Europe have already entered the digital investing space, and research from Bitcoin.com has found nearly a third are interested in jumping in. But young Italians are the most likely to list this as a top financial goal:
While their top two goals are all the same, young Europeans diverge on their next most important financial goals—and young Italians are all about investing. As an economy that has faced hardship over the past decade, crypto was gaining popularity in Italy long before the latest boom. Now, digital currencies are being integrated into their regular banking system, and young Italians are doubling down on acquiring them. Young Spanish consumers, meanwhile, are the most focused on finding a job, while young Britons are aiming to be debt-free. In fact, our finance/spending report found that young U.K. consumers’ finances are hurting the most, driven by a “cost of living crisis” in the region that was exasperated by the pandemic. A 2021 study found that young Brits pay more than twice as much than older generations for living expenses, including rent, which created a difficult financial situation even before COVID. Young U.K. consumers were also the most likely to lose their jobs in 2020, and many fell behind on expenses. Now, 44% of young Brits tell YPulse they have no savings—far more than any other young Europeans—and 41% have debt.
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