BREAKING: Gen Z Seizes the Memes of Production
This month, we’re exploring the new money culture: from alt assets, to crypto, to El*n M*sk.
In our Predictionary, we gave Gen Z a new name: Gen V, or Generation Virus—to reflect those those on the cusp of entering the real world who had their plans and lives upended by the pandemic, environmental devastation, and much more. Today a sense of this upheaval is transforming the worlds of money and finance — or whatever you want to call it now that $USD has turned into $WTF. The future of money is now, and it’s time we explored how Gen Z is at the forefront of the new money culture.
Gen Z came of age during the 2008 financial crisis and the chaotic inter-Covid economy.. That, and the fact that the country has been on a steady path of wealth consolidation amongst the top 1% since the Reagan era has shaped Gen Z’s thoughts not just on money itself but also on the culture that surrounds it.
While only 42% of Gen Zers hold a favorable view of capitalism, they’re also a generation (like others before them), with some striking contradictions. For instance, while 60% of Gen Z are influenced by a fashion brand reducing their carbon footprint, many also can’t get enough of brands like Shein, regarded by many as fast fashion on steroids. The same can be said for Gen Z and their value systems around money. Gen Z feels that capitalism is broken and that we’ve gone full gonzo, and maybe that’s the point. The Gen Z’s future of money is less Alex Keaton and more Keith Gill. Less Rolex and more Pokemon cards. So let’s dive in.
Gen Z’s shifting views on money are clearly driving markets and the popularity of trading platforms like Robinhood and Coinbase. Flush with time (and stimulus payments) last year, Gen Z took to trading. Brokerage firm Apex Clearing, said it opened nearly 6 million accounts in 2020 — up 137% from 2019 with 1 million new accounts belonging to Gen Z investors. Andreessen Horowitz partners Anish Acharya and Matthieu Hafemeister attribute this to “a natural extension of hustle culture, in which risk is embraced and failure is accepted (and even celebrated)." A digitally native generation, Gen Z easily adapted to the new online world of finance — one driven by r/WallStreetBets and meme accounts like @litquidity.
For better or for worse, investing became a game — even a joke. And it’s always a joke until it’s not, only this time, Gen Z is in on it. They were even part of the driving force behind the infamous Gamestop saga (and the ensuing AMC squeeze). One 20 year old Robinhood user, Louis Weimer said “it’s all fair game, so why should the system be so favorable to people who have more money?”
Gen Z’s infatuation with cryptocurrency is partly driven by a hustle mentality, but it’s also attributed to an understanding that the current system is not exactly setting them up for success. On CNBC, crypto bull Mike Novogratz echoed a similar sentiment: “When people ask me about Dogecoin, or GameStop, this is a young generation screaming out and basically giving the middle finger to the system, and saying, Hey, screw you guys. There’s a nihilism almost to it.” Some Gen Zers aren’t just riding the crypto wave to necessarily tear down the system, but also using crypto and blockchain to uplift marginalized communities often ignored by traditional financial institutions.
A Little Help Along the Way
The latest wave of Gen Z investing has ushered in a slew of brands and celebs looking to educate Gen Z on the market. Megan Thee Stallion partnered with Cash App for an “Investing for Hotties” series, giving away $1 million in stocks as part of a larger financial literacy campaign. Marsai Martin, star of ABC’s Black-ish teamed up with Verizon Media’s In The Know for a six-part campaign called “Money With Marsai Martin.” The show features Marsai as she sits down with experts and other celebrities to discuss the ins-and-outs of personal finance. Kevin Durant and Odell Beckham Jr., Jared Leto and Will Smith are investing in Andreesen Horowitz backed Titan Global Capital. Titan co-founder Joe Percoco said that “what BlackRock and Fidelity were for previous generations,Titan wants to be for millennials and Gen-Z,” given the influence that the stark market has on youth culture today.
Gen Z’s newfound penchant for investing, the crypto wave and the meme economy are just the tip of the new money iceberg. We’re living through a moment where the spirit is to take advantage of the system before it takes advantage of you. It’s fun, it’s weird, and it’s laced with an occasionally chaotic democratic energy (just ask White Square Capital). While financial fads may flare and fade, a longer-term quest for new forms of financial freedom will continue to inspire investment, speculation, high-stakes gambling, brand partnerships, strange new platforms and more. What have you got to lose?