Inflation is hitting Generation Zers, too. Here's how they are fighting back.

Brandon Griffin

Forty years ago, inflation scarred many baby boomers in their youth. And the Great Recession in the 2000s left many Gen X and Millennials hesitant to accumulate college debt – or stuck living with relatives.

Now, Generation Z, the nearly 68 million Americans between ages 9 and 24, is experiencing potentially life-altering challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and record inflation.

How this generation will fare remains to be seen. If 10,000 of the eldest members of the cohort in attendance at the Future Business Leaders of America national business conference in July are any indication, they plan to meet the challenges on their terms.

Here's how.  

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Gen Z is out for travel revenge 

After spending months in quarantine and deprived of social gatherings with peers, Gen Z is determined to travel again. According to Expedia, nearly two-thirds of Gen Z is planning “revenge travel,” and 8 in 10 of the 2,200 survey participants are seeking unique experiences for their next trip.

More than 12,000 Gen Z students and their academic advisers conquered the July Fourth ‘travel drama’  en route to the conference in Chicago. FBLA is among the largest business career and technical student organizations in the world, helping more than 230,000 members prepare for careers in business each year.

“Our student leaders were very vocal about their desire to have an in-person conference this year, after two years of having a virtual conference experience,” Alex Graham, president & CEO of FBLA, told USA TODAY.

Graham said the conference had a $42 million economic impact on Chicago, indicative in part of pent-up demand for travel. 

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How does Gen Z feel about work?

After seeing the fallout from the recession, widespread job loss, and movements for social justice, members of Gen Z have high professional expectations of their employers, and are likely to change jobs more frequently compared with previous generations.

The average length of time Gen Z spent in a job is about two years, according to a Career Builder survey, and insights from the "Great Resignation" indicate that 20% of millennial and Gen Z job seekers would leave a job within a month if they felt the job wasn’t as advertised.

They plan to battle with transferable job skills. Participation in FBLA, for example, helps students develop transferable skills to maintain competitiveness in the workforce.

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How does inflation impact Gen Z?

Inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.1% in June, and the hike in interest rates directly impacts Generation Z's ability to afford college. 

Christopher Gray, the founder of Scholly, a scholarship app that has helped students win more than $100 million, said there is a direct relationship between the economy and student debt.

“When interest rates are higher, student loan rates are higher, and student debt increases," said Gray, keynote speaker at the national conference and an FBLA and Shark Tank alum. "Parents have higher mortgages, credit card payments, and scholarships help relieve the burden from parents and the students.”

 Nearly 70% of FBLA members say they are first-generation college students.

Students who were successful in the competitive business events during the national conference won cash awards, conference scholarships, and other incentives totaling more than $200,000, according to FBLA.

Some students were awarded full-ride scholarships to college partners such as Johnson & Wales University.

Khushi Patel is an incoming freshman at UCLA and a first-place winner of FBLA’s Future Business Leader Award. 

“I am the second sibling in my family going to college, and it’s definitely expensive," she said. "We are grateful for all the help we can get.”

Brandon Griffin is head of B2B Marketing for Gannett's LOCALiQ UK, a life coach for young professionals, and a Future Business Leaders of America national board member.