Most of Gen Z Respects Financial Professionals, Not Ready to Hire Them

The majority of Generation Z, including investors and non-investors, rely on social media and family members for financial information.

Investors in Generation Z cited financial professionals as a highly trusted source, but they are least likely to learn about investing from a financial professional, according to a joint study released Wednesday by the FINRA Foundation and the CFA Institute. The study defined Generation Z as those born from 1997 through 2012, although all respondents were at least 18 years old when surveyed.

Only 30% of Gen Z investors learned about investing from a financial professional, falling behind information gleaned from social media (48%), internet search (47%) and family (45%), according to the nonprofit financial organizations. Despite that reality, when asked to identify their most trusted sources for financial information, Gen Z investors placed financial professionals second at 24%. Parents and family were considered most trusted, at 27% of participants.

Like Gen Z investors, non-investors were least likely to learn about financial topics from a professional (12%). Gen Z non-investors reported relying on parents and family most (51%), followed by social media (47%) and internet searches (38%). Meanwhile, non-investors placed less trust in financial professionals than their investing counterparts: Just 9% of non-investors named professionals as most trusted, ranking them sixth among 11 sources.

“It likely comes down to a matter of both the real and perceived affordability of financial advice,” said FINRA Foundation President Gerri Walsh in an emailed response. “Some Gen Z investors may not feel that the size of their asset base warrants seeking out a financial professional. That said, nearly a third of Gen Z investors (30%) are learning about investing and other financial topics from financial professionals.”

Gen Z investors prioritized planning-oriented financial goals, such as saving for retirement and building an emergency fund, according to the research. In contrast, Gen Z non-investors were focused on immediate needs. However, both groups are keen to travel and take advantage of vacation time.

The top financial goal of Gen Z investors was having enough money to travel and take vacation (62%), followed by saving for unexpected expenses (55%). Being able to retire when they choose and live comfortably came third at 51%.

Gen Z non-investors had different financial goals in mind: 63% reported being able to pay monthly bills and not living paycheck-to-paycheck as their top priorities. They also wanted to have enough money to travel (61%).

“Bottom line: Gen Z investors have higher household income than their non-investing peers and presumably have the wherewithal to focus more intently on longer-range goals,” Walsh wrote. “Non-investing Gen Zs are worried about paying their monthly bills and getting by until the next paycheck comes in. It’s also worth noting that Gen Z investors are much more likely than non-investors to benefit from financial transfers from family members.”

Walsh said there is both an opportunity and a need for educating Gen Z about financial issues. She pointed to the fact that among Gen Zs who are not yet investing, more than half (56%) cite lack of knowledge about investing as a barrier to participation in the markets. Other significant barriers cited include financial constraints such as lack of savings and income.

“We know from the study that Gen Z investors and non-investors are getting about the same amount of financial education in high school,” said Walsh. “The big differences are seen in what happens after high school. Gen Z investors are much more likely to continue receiving formal financial education (in college, at work or from a professional body of some kind) than their non-investing peers. Financial professionals might look for ways to close the gap in the formal learning that happens after high school. To do this, financial professionals will need a strong online presence, and they might seek ways to engage parents and their Gen Z children in intergenerational conversations about finances.”

The total sample size of the study included 2,872 participants, comprising Gen Z investors and non-investors, as well as Millennial and Generation X investors, in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and China.