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Gen Z chooses 'head over heels' love over financial stability

Gen Zs are practical. But as the only generation that values love more than money, they remind us that happily ever after isn’t about the commas in your bank account. It’s about that feeling of butterflies in your stomach.


With their altruism, belief-driven consumerism and sensible spending habits, leave it to Gen Z to give the rest of us another reason to slink down in our collective we pretend the single-use, iced-coffee straw clamped between our lips isn’t really plastic but bamboo. Because, as it turns out, among Americans, Gen Z is the only generation to choose love (54 percent) over money (47 percent) when finding a partner with whom to share happily ever after.

According to the Fall 2018 Merrill Edge Report, Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers care more about landing a financially solvent partner who will fund the life they want to live (at 55 percent, 59 percent and 56 percent, respectively) than being with someone who will never stop giving them ‘butterflies.’ Gen Z, on the other hand, chooses “head over heels” love.

“I do prefer love [over money]. Money won’t matter if you don’t have people in your life that you love. I plan on having both.”  - Lilli

Adorable? Yes. Idealistic? Perhaps -- but let’s hope not. I spoke to several college-aged men and women about dating and their pragmatic attitude surprised me. Here’s what they had to say.

On finding people to date: In their own backyard

As digitally connected as this generation is (and always has been), it’s interesting to note they pursue meeting potential dates the old-fashioned, analog way—in person.

“I don’t try to look for someone to date, I prefer to just let it happen. I usually meet people in my classes or at house shows with mutual friends.”

- Michaela

“I just go out with my friends and see if I hit it off with anyone; then see where it goes from there.”

- Manny

For me, the ultimate goal when it comes to dating is to spark a natural connection with a person. That seems to happen better organically, in person.

- Chloe

On dating apps: meh, not so much

Mixed bag here. Given their predilection for in-person connection and access to a deep dating pool at college, for the Gen Zers I spoke to, dating apps weren’t much of a focus or need.

“Dating apps, terrifying! Not for me (yet). The most promising dates are usually with people I see regularly at school or work.”

- Caroline

“I don’t use dating apps because of my boyfriend, but if I did, I think dating apps would be a good way to meet people without the awkwardness of saying in person, “So...are you single?”

- Emily

“Honestly finding people to date is hard. You never really know how someone is until you meet them in person. It could go wrong really fast. I’d rather meet someone in person and see how it goes, instead of using a dating app.”

- Manny

On celebrating Valentine’s Day: Netflix and (probably) not chill

Coupled or not, Gen Z approach Valentine’s Day the same way as dating: low-key and on their own terms.

If I do celebrate Valentine’s Day, it’ll probably just be with my friends, no big plans or anything.

- Michaela

“I’m in a performance of the Vagina Monologues on Valentine’s Day, which I think is a celebration on its’ own. I’ll probably dress up all pink and red during the day.”

- Chloe

“Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to eat chocolate and watch a rom-com.”

- Caroline

“I’m thinking about what I could buy my dog for Valentine’s Day.”

- Audrey

What Gen Z's take on love means for marketers

And there you have it. While Gen Z prioritizes love over money, it seems what they value most are relationships. Given that Gen Z current spending power is $143B in the U.S. alone, coupled with the fact that they will be the single largest group of consumers by 2020, brands might ought to consider how they can create opportunity for connection and exchanges shared over mutual interests.

After all, isn’t that what relationships are all about?

Stephanie H.
Stephanie H.
Writer and occasional contributor to Gen Z Insights

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