Families and finances

Families and finances

From pocket money decisions to silver surfing internet shopping, multi-generational attitudes to payments are always changing


When you have members of families representing every generation, you discover different thoughts, feelings and experiences with it comes to money. There’s much debate around how the different generations behave, how they like to shop and what payment methods they prefer.

Retailers need to adapt to meet the evolving needs of the future generations. But what does it all mean? And are the different generations really all that different? We delve into the technology and spending habits of The Allens, a friendly yet fictional family from the UK.

The Maturists

First, let’s meet Joyce. Nana Joyce is a ‘maturist’ or part of the ‘Silent Generation’. Born between 1924 and 1945, Joyce’s formative experiences happened around World War Two (WWII). Joyce’s generation wrote letters and were the first to own cars. Joyce prefers to pay in cash when she can and has paid off her mortgage in full.

The Baby Boomers

Joyce’s eldest son, Peter, is a baby boomer. Born after WWII, his generation were the first to grow up watching TV and chat to their friends on the phone. He saw England lift the World Cup and vividly remembers watching Emergency Ward 10 when a news flash came on about JFK being shot. 

Generation X

The group once called the latchkey kids and the MTV Generation are now one of the biggest groups in the workplace. Peter’s step-daughter Kathy remembers the Berlin Wall coming down and was the first in her family to use a home PC and a mobile phone the size of a briefcase. Kathy and her friends love making lists, they read newspapers, tend to shop in-store but will often do research and purchase online, too. 

Millennials (Generation Y) 

This is Jamie, Peter’s son, and one of the much-discussed millennials. Also known as Generation Y, they were born between the early 80s and mid 90s, remember where they were on 9/11 and were the first generation to bring their camera phones to school. This tech-savvy generation are often referred to as digital natives, a phrase first used by US education consultant Marc Prensky in 2001.

Generation Z

Jamie’s younger sister Emily is within Generation Z, as she was born between the mid-90s to early 2000s. Emily and her friends take a love of tech to another level – according to research from Adobe, they spend up to ten hours a day engaging with online content and their attention span averages just eight seconds according to Vision Critical.  And they’re big business – a study by Barclays shows they are big influencers on the family's purse strings.


And finally, meet Noah – Jamie’s little boy, who’s part of the Alpha generation. Born from 2011 onwards, they’re also called the ‘Glass Generation’ – they’ve never known a world without smart phones or tablets. Intergenerational speaker and author Henry Rose Lee describes them as ‘Millennials on steroids’. According to sociologist Mark McCrindle, who coined the term ‘Alpha’, an estimated 2.5 million Alphas are born every week. And their spending power is colossal – although they may only be clutching pocket money right now, if you win them over, you win their millennial parents over, too.

So now that we’ve met them, how do they engage in the digital and real world? We looked at three key trends.

1. Experience

Barclaycard research shows that these days, the experience economy is booming. Over half of customers would rather spend money on events than material items. So when they do splash the cash in a bricks-and-mortar store, the experience is everything. Emily and her fellow Gen Zs are particular fans of physical stores, which play an important role in their purchasing as they like to browse and buy online but touching the goods in-store matters along with the physical experience. But actually, chances are the whole of the Allen family will be pounding the pavements to get to a store that provides a first-class experience, because it appeals to almost every generation. One report from Cap Gemini found that 82% of consumers will always buy from a company with which they have high emotional engagement. What’s interesting about this is that the in-store experience has just as much of an impact as the digital revolution. The report also found that 70% will spend twice as much on brands they feel an affinity with and 81% will share their love of a brand with friends and family.

2. New technology

We are sometimes all too quick to assume that maturists like Joyce and baby boomers like Peter prefer more traditional media channels. In fact, a Kantar Media report shows that baby boomers are fast adopters when it comes to digital, with 64% of them accessing the internet numerous times a day, 63% owning a smartphone and 53% a tablet. Jamie and Emily have first-hand experience of this though, as Nana Joyce likes and comments on every picture they’re tagged in. Gen Z are also fast on the uptake of mobile banking apps, with this Accenture report showing that 69% of this generation use the apps daily, versus the 17% of Baby Boomers doing the same.

3. Traditional hobbies

Believe it or not, the youngest in our family, Noah, may have more in common with his great-grandma Joyce than you would think. Steadily becoming known as the ‘new old fashioned’, a study from Beano Studios found that 42% of kids in Gen Alpha enjoy crafts like knitting, 98% of are still playing outside and 72% are still climbing trees. Not to be left out, the millennials are also jumping on the hobbies bandwagon and are seeking to make their fortunes from their pastimes. Barclaycard research shows 23% of those aged 18-34 are actively generating income from their outside-of-work interests.

Whatever generation bracket you may fall in to; the message is clear: change is impacting everyone from great-grannies to school children and how we like to shop, play and work is evolving to meet these new consumer demands. With growing pressures on the high street, retailers need to keep ahead of these new trends and make sure their offering stay just as relevant for Joyce as they are for Noah.