Quick chart: What Gen-Z & Millennials Really Want in Life

image of young couple

We are all human. Despite different traits and experiences, when it comes to basic desires most people want the same things. Of course priorities shift as we age, but fundamental values are more alike than you might think.  In our latest study, we asked gen-Z and millennial consumers what they find most important in life – prompting them to rank their top five characteristics out of a list of 16.

Happiness and Family Rise to the Top

We asked consumers: In your ideal life, which five of the following characteristics would be the most important? Money, Happiness, Family, Friends, Purpose / goals, Marriage / partnership, Adventure, Power, Health, Fame, Success, Freedom, Comfort, Security, Parenthood, Knowledge.

Across generations, consumers generally value the same things – happiness, family, and health. However, these values do rank differently for each segment.

For gen-Z and millennials, happiness reigns supreme. But it’s not universally number one. It falls to third among gen-Xers and boomers(+), surpassed by health and family.  Family consistently ranks second across all generations.

Marriage / partnership is also in the top five, but only among the three adult generations except for Gen-Z, where marriage is (mostly) not on their radar.

Friends are more essential to gen-Z and millennials. Many in the youngest generations find themselves actively crafting their social identity and interacting with their friends on a regular basis through school. For older consumers, friends don’t rank in the top five.

Values Shift Slightly with Age

In general the high-level values hold moving from traditional generations to five-year buckets. Happiness is still at the top across every single sub-group.

Health is of the least concern to the youngest segment of gen-Z consumers, most of whom are not likely facing issues that may arise for older consumers. The oldest gen-Z segment behaves more like millennials in placing more importance on health.

Family is still seen as essential for an ideal life for the youngest generations. Marriage / partnership appears in the top five starting with the 26-30 year-old millennials.

Friends steadily decline as a top characteristic from each generational sub-group to the next.

When looking at the youngest generations broken into smaller segments, we see that not only is freedom important to gen-Xers and boomers(+), it’s also valued by the oldest gen-Zers and the oldest millennials. The oldest gen-Zers are just entering their post-high school stage of life. The increased independence contributes to the importance they place on freedom.

Conversely, the oldest millennials are likely entering a phase of their life with less freedom and more responsibilities as many buy houses, get married, have children, and advance in their careers. For the older segments who rank freedom as one of the most important characteristics, it may be an aspirational element of an ideal life.

genYZ segmentation study

Today’s data comes from the preliminary results of our genYZ segmentation study, a n=4,300 study of gen-Z and millennials with the goal of creating an “all-up” segmentation of 13 to 36 year-olds. The survey itself was fielded bilingually with racial and ethnic over-samples. Results shown above have been weighted.

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