The changing traditional milestones of adulthood are getting later for Generation Z (Gen Z) meaning important financial lessons may not be being learnt. Young people are never more insurable as they are today, we need to help them understand the importance of Protection and how it can help create financial resilience.
At 18, I certainly never thought about the importance of protection or financial resilience and even at 26 I never predicted working in the industry that I'm now so passionate about. Now I'm a 41 year old mum of a Gen Z, I find myself thinking more and more about how important the protection financial safety net is to the younger generations.
At its broadest classification, Gen Z are now between the ages of 11 and 27 (born between 1996 and 2012) and are generally in full time education, university education or new entrants to the workforce.
It's been a growing concern for some time that financial knowledge is already lower for younger people and they may already lack awareness about the cost of living independently and financial skills required in adult life.
Financial resilience can be defined as the ability to cope financially when faced with a sudden fall in income or unavoidable rise in expenditure, financial resilience is a skill the importance of which has become obvious. But as more and more 16-18 year olds enter adulthood, protection may be a key component of their financial resilience toolkit.
Of all the current generations, Gen Z is the most stressed out according to an abundance of data.* Their need for stability, safety and lower attitudes towards risk opens a unique opportunity to engage with them around life and critical illness insurance and how these products can provide them stability.
Do young people need Life & Critical Illness insurance?
Young, healthy people are more likely to be considered low risk and will usually pay lower premiums but the main reason they should be thinking about life insurance and critical illness applies no matter how old you are, and that is: what would be the impact if they died or became seriously ill?
Gen Z are likely to be taking on adult responsibilities at an older age, so in effect staying young for longer. We know the traditional milestones of early adulthood are changing as Gen Z enter adulthood later.
Although Gen Z are typically having a family, buying their first home, moving away from mum and dad and potentially starting work at a later age, there may still be other impacts they should consider such as; if a loved one is financially dependent on their earnings, costs of care and treatment or additional costs resulting from living with a serious illness. Gen Zers who are at the start of the working life will probably have relatively small amounts of savings and limited pension benefits putting them in a more vulnerable position than older generations. Most advisers know only too well that often the trigger for taking out protection is when someone takes on extra responsibilities. However, for some this could be too late.
It won't happen to me
Perhaps the most important need for Gen Z is Critical Illness cover. Dr Marius Barnard recognised the need for Critical Illness Insurance understanding that for some it was no longer about losing their life, but losing their life savings and in 1983 launched the first critical illness insurance policy.
The average age of critical illness claimants still always surprises me. Scottish Widows paid out over 4% of their critical illness claims in 2022 for young adults aged under 26 with the youngest adult claimant being just 25 years old.**
As Critical illness insurance turns 40, it's never been more pertinent for advisers to engage with Gen Zers to understand their protection needs.
So how do we engage with Gen Z around Protection?
Being around my recently turned 18 year old Gen Z and her friends, I've become increasingly aware of their financial awareness, characteristics, needs and preferences and how they differ from my own at their age. Gen Zers tend to value financial stability derived from their desire for a sense of safety. They rely heavily on reviews and recommendations through social media more than other generations and engage with brands who use social media platforms far more than previous generations.
TikTok has become a dominant player in social media with around 1.53 billion users as of 2023. TikTok has overtaken X, Telegram, Reddit, Pinterest, and Snapchat. 22.4% of users are between 20-29 years old and many advisers are recognising the potential of TikTok to raise awareness of life and critical illness cover as well as help lead generation.***
Gen Z purchase decisions are often defined by their values and beliefs and where young people go for financial advice is influenced by financial confidence. For example, financially confident young adults are more likely to consult professional sources. However, for the majority of young adults the main trusted source of information and guidance on financial matters is usually parents and family.
Research by M&G Wealth found that 57% of families with a financial adviser share the adviser's services with their parents.†
Therefore this begs the question, is intergenerational planning going to be the future of protection advice?
A recent Scottish Widows TechTalk article by Alun Beynon, Protection Specialist, Head of Corporate Partnerships, Scottish Widows, highlighted the need to consider specific needs of Generation Z when it comes to protection requirements. Are we ignoring generation Z?
Where children are covered on their parents' critical- illness policies, reaching the age where that cover would cease could be a trigger point for advisers to talk to their clients about adult children having cover in their own right. We must start to think about bringing the younger generation into the protection conversation, especially where we already have relationships with their parents, to offer them guidance on a topic they are going to be more widely exposed to through social media and ensure they understand their needs for protection.
As an industry, we now have the opportunity to build deeper relationships and move Gen Zers from underinsured to financially independent and resilient.
**Source: Scottish Widows Claims statistics 2022
***Source: Euromonitor International Digital Consumer Survey 2023
†Source: Should you share a financial adviser with your partner or family? (This is Money 2022)