Help families guide their new grads to financial success

man and woman talking at table

Key Points

  • Families can feel they have a lot of work to do to help younger generations become financially independent.

  • Graduation is a timely opportunity to arm clients with tips to help their graduates understand the importance of building a solid financial foundation.

About four million people will graduate from college this year1 and begin establishing careers. For graduates, their relationship to money can change significantly once they have a job and pay their own bills. For families, a new set of worries emerge. Can their kids make it on their own? As a financial professional, you're in a unique position to help both graduates and their loved ones navigate this moment—and build a financial foundation that will last a lifetime.

Gen Z meets the world

Gen Z (born after 1996) is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in the U.S. and is on track to being the most well-educated one too.2 They're digital natives who tend to have a strong sense of social responsibility3, are highly collaborative and social, value flexibility, and resist hierarchical leadership.4

Gen Z is sometimes skeptical of financial institutions, which may cause them to be less likely to invest and can make it challenging for advisors to reach them. Morning Consult's 2020 survey found that only 32% of Gen Z respondents say they trust Wall Street—the second lowest trust rating after Hollywood (28%).5 They're also likely to live longer than their parents, with an average of nearly 20 healthy years after age 60, according to the World Health Organization.6 Longer life spans, combined with diminishing Social Security reserves, could put a strain on their financial stability. They'll likely need to depend more on their savings than previous generations, which makes financial planning as urgent as ever.

The nature of work is also changing. In 2021, the number of independent workers—workers who are not employees of a company—jumped 34% to 51.1 million.7 Many of these workers do not have any kind of retirement plan and may not be saving at all.8 As the 1099 continues to outpace the W-2, future generations will likely need to be even more proactive about their financial future.

Gen Z's uncertainty about the future (especially their financial future) has increased since the pandemic began and continues through volatile times. Are today's young people prepared for the financial realities ahead?

Help clients start the conversation

Families can feel they have a lot of work to do to help younger generations become financially independent. Graduation is a timely opportunity to arm your clients with some tips to help their graduates understand the importance of building a solid financial foundation and good savings and investing habits that can last a lifetime.

Consider creating a "resource kit" that provides tips on how to talk about topics such as:

  • Setting up auto pay for regular bills
  • Record keeping (tracking apartment deposits, tax receipts, etc.)
  • Helpful apps and online tools
  • Building good credit (
  • Budgeting best practices

Gifts can offer a financial boost

In a 2022 National Retail Federation survey, more than half of the respondents said they plan to give cash as a graduation gift.9 Encourage your clients to think beyond the one-time gift and to consider gifts that help establish healthy financial habits. Some ideas include:

  • Matching savings contributions. Opening a savings account can open the door to a good savings habit. Families can make the initial deposit and by matching a portion of their graduate's contributions they can incentivize regular contributions throughout the year. (Note: In 2024, you can give up to $18,000 per recipient without incurring the gift tax, $36,000 if you're giving as a couple).10
  • Fund or match contributions to an IRA. Opening a tax-advantaged Individual Retirement Account (IRA) could be the right move if the graduate is freelancing or ineligible for a 401(k) through their employer. Roth IRAs, funded with after-tax dollars, offer tax-deferred growth and tax-free withdrawals, and are a practical option for those with smaller incomes.
  • Give stocks with youth appeal. Gifting stocks that appeal to young graduates might pique their interest in investing. Ask your clients to think about what appeals to their grad. Entertainment, technology, or socially responsible investments are a few popular options (remind them to include their grads in the decision).
  • Gift appreciated stocks. Gifting appreciated stocks helps build the graduate's assets while reducing your clients' capital gains. This could also be a good time to start a conversation about generational tax planning.

Prepare for the next generation of clients

Beyond providing thoughtful service to your current clients, graduation is a chance for your advisory firm to connect with a new generation of clients.

Junior advisors who can relate to the current challenges of younger investors and are skilled at communicating and collaborating in a digital world, may help your firm reach more of these clients. Some firms regularly encourage clients to include children and grandchildren in planning conversations to help introduce key concepts. Hosting family-friendly events can be a great way to welcome multiple generations.

Graduation is a big day. For you, it's also a chance to show the unique value your firm offers. Throughout all the excitement and nerves, make sure your clients know that you'll be there for them and their families no matter where life's journey takes them.

What you can do next



  1. Melanie Hanson, "College Graduation Statistics," Education Data Initiative, June 12, 2022,
  2. Kim Parker and Ruth Igielnik, "On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know About Gen Z So Far," Pew Research Center, May 14, 2020,
  3. Annie E. Casey Foundation, "Social Issues That Matter to Generation Z," February 14, 2021,
  4. Melissa De Witte, "Gen Z are not 'coddled.' They are highly collaborative, self-reliant and pragmatic, according to new Stanford-affiliated research," January 3, 2022,
  5. Morning Consult, "How 2020 is Impacting Gen Z's Worldview," June 2020,
  6. Mark Stibich, PhD, "Healthy Life Expectancy and How It's Calculated", Verywell Health, October 3, 2020,
  7. MBO Partners, "The Great Realization: 11th Annual State of Independence," December 2021,
  8. Allison Shelton, "What We Know—and Don't Know—About Independent Workers and Retirement Savings," June 28, 2019,
  9. National Retail Federation, "Graduation Season Data Center," 2022,
  10. U.S. Internal Revenue Service, "What's New - Estate and Gift Tax," February 21, 2023,