At the end of 2023, a new consumer behavior trend emerged on social media where people started to question their financial status. Credit Karma describes the phenomenon coined “money dysmorphia” as people having distorted and insecure views of their finances despite the reality and leading to poor decision-making. However, this trend is now starting to hurt people’s financial situations, especially those in Gen Z and Millennials.
A recent study by Qualtrics commissioned by Credit Karma found that Gen Z and Millennials are obsessed with being rich. The survey polled more than 1,000 U.S. adults and found that 29 percent of Americans experience “money dysmorphia.”
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About 45 percent of Gen Z and Millennials are obsessed with the idea of being rich, with 43 percent of Gen Z and 41 percent of Millennials experiencing the phenomenon. Furthermore, 48 percent of Gen Z and 59 percent of Millennials said they feel left behind financially.
“Conversations about money have exploded on social media,” said Courtney Alev, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma. “While openness can be positive in many ways — like learning about salary negotiation, or what others in similar roles salaries are — there are also negative consequences.”
Alev explains that seeing friends, family members and strangers speak about money and flaunting their wealth on social media platforms has led people to second-guess where they stand in their financial status. As trend cycles tend to be short, combined with easy access to certain goods, younger generations are feeling pressure to buy or consume products to keep up with others around them.
Notably, Credit Karma’s report found that of those experiencing “money dysmorphia,” 82 percent of people polled said they feel behind on finances. Nearly half (48 percent) of Gen Z and nearly 60 percent of Millennials feel behind on finances which the report’s authors can attribute to feelings of inadequacy.
Despite these feelings, 59 percent of poll respondents said they are financially stable — which is a massive distortion in perception versus the reality of people’s financial status. Thirty-seven percent of respondents experiencing “money dysmorphia” report having more than $10,000 in savings and 23 percent of people polled have more than $30,000 in savings.
The report’s authors say that comparison is the thief of joy, especially at a time when there’s a hyper-fixation on wealth, money and status symbols and being rich feels out of reach — a time when inflation remains high, and the cost of living continues to skyrocket.
Quickly rising social media trends such as “quiet luxury” and “mob wife” are prime examples of the American obsession with wealth. Fixated on the idea of extreme wealth, more than half of Americans (52 percent) said they don’t think they will be rich and the percentage skyrockets to nearly 70 percent when speaking to Americans with “money dysmorphia.”
While being rich is a concern amongst Americans, 95 percent of people with “money dysmorphia” state that it negatively impacts their finances, with people saying it held them back from building long-term savings (40 percent), overspending (38 percent), taking on debt (32 percent) or held them back from saving for a house or paying off debt (30 percent).
“On one hand, this version of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ may cause consumers to overspend on certain goods or experiences they don’t need, to stay on par with current trends or social pressures and to “fit in” on social media,” Alev said. “On the other hand, if younger generations are feeling like they are behind financially, they may make the decision to reduce their spending until they feel more confident about their financial standing, which could help them build stronger financial habits.”
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