The best gifts for modern Gen Z
Our young people have an unpredictable future.
Labeled ‘Gen Z’, those born between 1997 and 2012 walk into a future filled with artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, metaverse, climate and sustainability issues, cybersecurity threats and a likely pandemic. become endemic – a pandemic economy. At the same time, our oversized schools lack the capacity to prepare our children for this future. (I describe why in “The Revised School Purpose”).
So this year, if your Gen Zs are like my three kids, they’d love nothing more than new phones, high waisted ’90s jeans, and thrift store clothes. However, unless these are coming from your basement (which can happen), many of the best gifts are timeless… and free!
Gifts Gen Z Really Needs
I have spent my career studying education systems and living in the best performing countries in the world as an international expert in comparative education. So what do today’s young people really need to be successful in our increasingly competitive global economy?
In my book World class, I call the American educational system the “great Swiss cheese”. While I think this is still the case systemically, it is fascinating to see how Gen Z reacted to the holes we have created in the system (Parker & Igielnik, 2020).
Generation Z needs the guidance of previous generations more than ever.
Source: Jhon David / Unsplash
Rather than bemoaning their education, Gen Z has created digital communities through social media to teach themselves the skills they lack. Browse TikTok for a moment and you’ll see trending videos on housekeeping techniques, arithmetic tips, essay writing, stock tips, book recommendations, recycling, and home improvement projects. Young people today are filling their own learning gaps through an informal cooperative.
Based on my research and experience, I’m sharing what I think are the 10 Best Lifetime Gifts You Can Give Gen Z This Holiday Season. Each costs as much or as little as you want and will ensure that the young adults in your life thrive on their own.
- Investment knowledge: Gen Z is fascinated by NFTs, Cryptocurrencies and Web 3. Here to stay, intangible currencies are being mined and created on an international scale. Gen Z should also have basic knowledge of traditional investing. You can put as much or as little as you want in an investment account (either a crypto wallet or a standard account) and encourage them to do their research and invest the funds however they see fit. If they grow the portfolio, they keep it. If they lose money, they lose it. One thing they will never lose is knowledge. An important accessory, if you can, is a subscription to an investment information service. As employment models shift to those of small economies and ancillary businesses, the traditional model of compensation and benefits has also changed.
- Credit card: Credit is a mystery to many. Co-signing a credit card linked to a bank account in her name with a preset limit will give her a positive credit rating on which to build her future. They will learn first-hand the problems or triumphs of payments and the impact of interest. In an uncertain economy, leveraging credit and equity is of the utmost importance. It also means that their allowance must be paid through this linked bank account.
- Sustainable spirit: GenZ is more interested in sustainability than previous generations, and they need to shop for bulky second-hand items smartly. Vehicles are one example. By sharing resources for finding used cars and exposing them to technical manuals, you’ll learn to spot lemons and ask the right questions with confidence. This will be even more important with the growing number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the market (IEA, 2021). Other resources include selling and buying excess capacity through Airbnb models, but for other items like cars through apps like Turo.
- Meal planning and preparation: Generation Z is more in tune with the impacts of their food choices on their own bodies and the planet. With the increase in more specific pallets, they must learn how to properly prepare all of their updated versions of meats and vegetables in a way that fits all the diets within a meal sharing group. Bonus points if they can plan, purchase, prepare and serve meals that include the required food groups. In Japan, students learn the farm-to-table route at all of their school meals (Clavel, 2019). This gift is also used to keep family traditions and recipes alive.
- Sewing: Gen Z want to learn, and need to know, how to replace a button, fix a zipper, or make their own clothes. Ignore the influencers on Tik Tok (#SewingTikTok had over 725 million views as of September 2021) and teach the correct way to care for, design and extend the life of clothes (Sola-Santiago, 2021) together. Maybe even invest in a sewing machine and create recycled clothes or just repair the ones we have to avoid investing in fast fashion which has direct impacts on our climate and the deforestation of the Amazon.
- Professional relationships : A recent Fast Company survey reports that Gen Z prioritizes fair wages and benefits as well as flexible hours to meet mental health needs (Hayek, 2021). Achieving these goals requires trust and communication. Make sure they understand this reality and back them up with practical conversations and books on the topic of working relationships. This generation welcomes the diversity of thought and inclusion of all voices more than any other.
- Lifelong learning: While there are valuable lessons on YouTube and Instagram Reels, there are other free and great options for your Gen Z, including podcasts and open online universities. Harvard even offers free lessons. The offers are astounding, so check them out together or gift a subscription.
- Engage with books: Our reading habits and national scores are declining, but we know that literacy is crucial to any continuing effort. Encourage reading physical books, but reading in any accessible format deepens understanding, exposes us to a variety of thoughts, provides context, models behaviors, and improves our communication skills. Pick a book to read with family or a group of friends and invite your Gen Z to facilitate the conversation. The influencers on Tik Tok also make a lot of recommendations.
- Home exercise programs: Gyms can be expensive and, as we’ve learned from the COVID pandemic, may not always be available. Model a commitment to physical health with a home routine and get your Gen Zer involved. There are countless exercise apps available for free or for a small fee. Set a goal of running a 5k, for example, and train together.
- Public Service: Many nations infuse values of community service into their school curriculum from an early age. Give Gen Z some time this season. You might be surprised that they have more to teach you and make the world a brighter place, together.
The best gifts are timeless. The ideas I have shared with you here will prepare your child, grandchildren and loved ones for future success. They inherit a difficult world and our role is to prepare them as well as possible.