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New research shows huge differences in how Gen Z and Millennials and Baby Boomers talk to friends about their salaries


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Your grandmother may have told you it’s rude to talk about money, but Gen Z doesn’t buy it.

According to a new survey of 1,000 Americans by GOBankingRates, 37% of Gen Zers (ages 18 to 24) have responded to their close friends about how much money they make. By comparison, about a quarter of millennial respondents (27% 25-34 and 25% 35-44), about 15% of Gen Xers and 4% of those 65+ visitor.

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“Older generations are taught not to talk about money, and the topic itself is taboo,” says Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert in San Diego. “Young people tend to be more open about everything – from how much they pay for something to how much money they make.”

Here are the differences between generations.

Gen Z and Millennials: Money Issues and Habits

This greater openness may reflect young people’s heightened focus on money. According to another recent survey, the cost of living is Gen Z’s top concern, while almost half of Gen Z and millennials worry that their income won’t cover their expenses.

These generations are all about sharing when they have an idea. “Social media has had a major impact on how much people share,” Swan said. “They share their food, their emotions, and all the different milestones in their lives; they share the mundane parts of their lives, because they have a habit of sharing on social media, and they share a wider range of topics, including money within that range.”

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The survey data also showed that it was not just close friends that young people talked about salary. More 18-24 year olds (39%) said they had asked about their colleagues’ income.

Among millennials, 30% of 25- to 34-year-olds and 24% of 35- to 44-year-olds have asked colleagues about their salary. That number continues to fall further with age: 14% of 45- to 54-year-olds and only 12% of 55- to 64-year-olds (baby boomers) raised the topic.

Gen Z’s greater openness to money conversations may not last as they age, says Danetha Doe, founder of Money & Mimosas and chief economist at Clever Girl Real Estate exist. “As the Gen Z population ages and makes more money over the course of their careers, I’m curious to ask if the percentage of wages will stay the same, decrease or increase,” Doe said. “Right now, I don’t think we can compare Gen Z to Millennials because the salaries may be different.”

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the benefits it can bring

Transparency around wages has undergone a dramatic upheaval over the past few years. Young job seekers battling pay inequality demand this information ahead of time.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women still earn just 82 cents for every dollar men earn. For women of color, the wage gap is even more alarming. For every dollar white men make, black women earn 64 cents, while Hispanic women earn just 57 cents.

“When things are tight-lipped and people don’t share, that’s why we have differences today,” Swan said.

The so-called mass resignations and their ensuing worker shortages have left employers with no choice but to acquiesce. A growing number of states have passed laws requiring employers to include salary information in online job postings. A recent Pew Research Center study found that young workers aged 25-34 have the smallest wage gap of any age group in 2020.

“This disparity can be largely explained by measurable factors such as educational attainment, occupational segregation and work experience. The narrowing of the gap is largely attributable to women’s progress in each of these areas ,” the study said.

Swan believes that the age-old adage that talking about money is impolite is etiquette advice from a bygone era, and a shift towards more openness is a good thing. “I think it’s helpful to have these conversations with our colleagues and friends,” Swan said. “It helps empower others to seek what they deserve.”

Doe agrees. “Gen Z is talking directly about wage inequality in a way that previous generations didn’t,” she said. “They understand that economic justice is necessary for social peace.”

More from GOBankingRates

Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,004 Americans 18 and older from across the country between July 21 and July 24, 2022, asking 9 different questions: (1) When restaurant service is bad How much do you tip? (2) How much is the tip for the restaurant service? (3) How much do you usually spend on wedding gifts? (4) A large group of people go out to eat, how to split the bill? (5) Have you ever asked your closest friends how much money they make? (6) Have you ever asked your colleagues how much money they make? (7)
If you borrow money from a family member, do you expect them to actually repay it? (8) Have you ever concealed a large purchase from your partner or spouse? (9) Which service staff do you often tip? (select all that qualify). GOBankingRates uses PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct polls.

About the author

Cody Bay is an award-winning writer, editor and media ace based in Seattle, Washington. She focuses on social good storytelling and content strategy, most recently leading the Microsoft News for Good program at MSN, creating content experiences that inform readers and empower them to take action on causes they care about. She has contributed to a variety of local and national publications, including Microsoft’s IT Showcase, The Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine, Travel Channel, and Puget Sound Business Journal, and was previously a multimedia editor for The Associated Press in New York.

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