the shape of leadership

Teaching Gen Z Financial Responsibility

Three topics that need to be discussed

Kent Ingle on October 2, 2023

Have you ever made a purchase that wasn’t exactly a necessity or planned, but just something fun that caught your eye? Maybe it was a fashionable pair of shoes or a cool new gadget. This unexpected purchase may have boosted your mood and improved your day. Sometimes, the result of these positive feelings can dictate our spending habits.

One of the latest financial trends among Generation Z is emotional spending — a habit of using money to cope with life’s highs and lows. This type of spending can combat feelings of sadness and loneliness, or, the opposite, to celebrate.

According to Credit Karma, 58% of Gen Z members consider themselves emotional spenders compared to 52% of millennials and only 19% of those aged 59 and older. The study also found that within the span of six months, more than half of Americans had taken on some amount of debt because of emotional spending. This broke down to 67% of Gen Z, and millennials followed closely behind at 66%.

Financial responsibility is crucial for young adults, not only for their quality of life but also for their spiritual development and lifestyle as followers of Christ. It’s important that we help the upcoming generation understand the gravity of money management, the dangers of debt, and how to navigate it all as Christians.

Below are three topics we must discuss with young adults when it comes to emotional spending. 


Avoiding and Combatting Debt

We live in a world where debt is increasingly normalized and quick to accumulate. When checking out at the register, we’re asked to open new credit cards to ‘save money’ or make purchases in installments. This encourages more spending, even when the funds aren’t there to back it and makes for much easier emotional purchases.

Taking on debt should be discouraged when possible. Of course, there are instances when employing some sort of loan may be a necessary step toward a goal — such as the pursuit of higher education or buying a house. However, in these situations, it is critical to emphasize to young adults the importance of staying vigilant in the maintenance and upkeep of those loans, plus the goal of repayment.

Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” The Bible clearly states that when something is borrowed, it must be paid back in full.

Financial responsibility is crucial for young adults, not only for their quality of life but also for their spiritual development and lifestyle as followers of Christ.

One tip that could help young adults counter emotional spending and the buildup of debt is to follow this process: When there is an impulse to buy something that isn’t a basic need, write the item on a sticky note and adhere it to the fridge for a month. If the desire remains after time has passed, he or she can then make the purchase confidently knowing it was not born out of an emotional desire.


Impacting Spiritual Well-Being

Emotional spending runs the risk of affecting one’s spiritual life and relationship with Christ. If young adults rely on retail purchases as their source of joy or a form of comfort during difficult moments, they will form unhealthy dependencies.

When feeling down or searching for true happiness, we should be looking to Christ. Trying to find fulfillment in material goods will never satisfy and only leave us wanting more.

Young adults can be reassured by Psalm 62:1-2 which says, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

As Christians, our priorities shouldn’t be primarily focused on possessions. It can become dangerous when thoughts begin to center around material wealth, pushing Christ off to the side as an afterthought.

Encourage young people to spend time in prayer the next time they’re tempted to emotionally spend. If they take the time to seek God first and recenter their thoughts, those urges can be mitigated.


Building a Secure Future

It can be easy for young adults to focus on the present, letting intentional thoughts for the future slip behind what they face currently. A young person may not fully comprehend that financial decisions made now won’t only affect his or her own future but have an impact on the livelihood of their potential family.

If a young adult has been blessed with the opportunity to make a living, it is almost a sign of disrespect to use what he or she has earned in a hasty and emotion-driven fashion. We should be showing the next generation how to properly honor Christ through financial stewardship, beginning with establishing and building savings.

Young adults may assume they are not financially capable of starting a savings plan, as they might jump straight to the thought of quantity as opposed to quality. It’s essential for them to understand that when it comes to activities like saving, Christ doesn’t have grandiose expectations. It is perfectly acceptable to start small.

Proverbs 13:11 advises, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.”

It’s important for us to help Gen Z members fully grasp these concepts as they begin to embark upon adulthood. If they can avoid habits like emotional spending and start instilling wise principles and practices into their lives early on, it will set them up for even greater growth and success in the future.

By being financially responsible, and ultimately good stewards, young people will be equipped to live out the lives Christ has called them to — better serving Him and demonstrating to others how to do the same. 

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