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Yes, We Mind the Wage Gap

Gen Z wants to shrink the wage gap by… talking.

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It’s 2022 and you can ask a woman her age but you still can’t ask how much she makes. Most of us would prefer to talk about anything other than money. We’ll choose marital trouble, mental health, addiction, sex, race, religion, and politics before we’ll wade into salary talk. 

Why does this matter? Silence around money — encouraged by the wealthy since the Golden Age — feeds a wage gap of between 60 to 89 cents on the dollar

The Wage Gap isn’t news. We’ve lived with it for as long as women have worked. We know, for example, that racialized women bear the brunt of the inequality, earning an average of 59.3% of the average white male salary. But even school girls experience a gendered wage disparity. According to the Girl Guides of Canada, young women 12-18 earn almost $3 less per hour than boys at summer jobs. 

Not only does this make us want to talk about money… it makes us want to scream.

If present trends continue, according to the World Economic Forum, it will take the world about 267.6 years to reach wage parity.

Hannah Williams wants to move that date up a few hundred years. The 25-year-old TikToker recently took to the streets to ask her fellow Washingtonians two simple questions: What do you do? And how much do you make? The series (@salarytransparentstreet) has gone viral. Williams hopes her project will break down the social stigma around money talk, and move us toward addressing pay inequality. 

Will it work? It’s working! Williams’ project is part of a growing movement focused on real change. New data shows that about 40 percent of Millennials and Gen Z talk to coworkers about what they earn. Compare this to 19 percent for Baby Boomers.

This spring, New York passed a law requiring employers to disclose salaries on all advertised jobs. And even companies who aren’t forced into transparency would be smart to consider it. The job posting site Indeed Canada recently revealed that posts that include salaries attract 90 percent more applicants. 

That’s something worth talking about.

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The Business of Memes

Fast reads on things kids care about, or cared about, or may care about again.

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  • Meme stocks as an asset class? Nice work, Reddit. 
  • “Meme fashion” label Pizzaslime makes fast fashion look slow. They’re doing brisk business selling wearable internet culture to Gen Z.
  • Want to create a meme for the ages? According to one prof, there’s a formula for that.  

Read on…

***

The craze around the trading of “meme stocks” GameStop and AMC Entertainment has largely fallen out of mainstream news, but Reddit’s still chasing the highs. And so, it was just a matter of time before MEME ETF hit the scene. MEME launched this December, thanks to Roundhill Investments, purveyors of specialty ETFs such as the Esports & Digital Entertainment ETF, NERD.

With subreddit WallStreetBets 10x-ing in 2021, social investing is here to stay, even if MEME’s performance is on the decline…for now. 

So, should you “buy the dip” on MEME? It’s very early. The fund rebalances bi-weekly, and focuses on stocks “that are both highly shorted and subject to increased retail sentiment”. In other words, if you love roller coasters, this could be a love match. No matter what, it’s bound to keep you calmer than trying to keep up with what’s trending on Reddit.

Nasdaq.com | Sept. 4, 2021

The two millennials behind “meme fashion” label Pizzaslime have made millions selling merch to people interested in wearing internet culture IRL, reports Insider. Their wares reference nerdy-cool things like Elon Musk tweets about meme stocks (“Gamestonk!!”) and that endlessly remixed photo of a mittened-out Bernie Sanders. Commenting on Pizzaslime’s runaway success with Gen Z, one fashion expert said “What matters to younger consumers is what captures their attention and has the ability to spread like wildfire across social networks — and this is exactly why meme fashion is so popular.” We’ve seen plenty of articles in recent years bemoaning how Gen Z has killed the fast fashion propagated by millennials. Perhaps the younger generation has just put a new spin on it — one somehow both faster and more enduring at once.

Insider | May 16, 2021

Speaking of enduring, what is it that gives some memes such incredible longevity, despite the “here today, gone tomorrow” reality of internet culture? Speaking to Forbes, Leilani Carver, a professor of strategic communications, says that since older memes are better known, more people “have the necessary subcultural knowledge to interpret/understand the code and ‘get’ the meme.” 

In the age of the Remix, everything old is new again. We’re into it.

Forbes | Aug. 30, 2021

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The Business of Gaming

a cheat sheet for what matters (maybe) to the kids in your life.

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  • Young gamers can now add “e-sports athlete” and “digital content creator” to their picks for Career Day.
  • The pirated games your kids are playing could end up costing you thousands.
  • And, happily, video game violence appears to be on the decline, as, for the moment, is gaming itself. Impossible to believe? 

Read on… 

***

According to the NY Times, “e-sports is now the fifth-most popular future job among South Korean students”.  South Korea’s elite gamers draw big salaries and celebrity-level sponsorships, but South Korea’s universities offer no athletic scholarships for the pursuit, shrinking opportunities for committed young gamers working to go pro. Enter… the USA. In 2019, California-based company Gen.G launched The Gen.G Elite Esports Academy, to give serious gamers a pathway to an American high school diploma and a chance to apply for e-sport scholarships at American universities. Gen.G charges $25K a year, and works to help “more young gamers find jobs” — while also building a pretty solid talent pipeline for themselves.

NYT | June 19, 2021

You know the old adage: if something is too good to be true, it probably is… CNBC reports that “malware is being hidden in free versions of games like NBA 2K19, Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 5, The Sims 4 and Jurassic World Evolution”. Parents should be on the lookout for their kids acquiring games from these pirate sites — aside from being, you know, a little bit criminal, these bootleg programs may “quietly use the computer’s processing power to mine cryptocurrencies for… hackers”. It’s a multi million dollar enterprise, so if the pirates are paying you, have at it! However, if hackers are jamming your processing power and paying zero doge for the privilege, it may be time to start budgeting with your kid for the real stuff. 

CNBC | June 25, 2021

The Financial Times reports that video games are becoming less violent. “A study of [last] month’s E3 trade event … found that 33 percent of the games shown at the event contained no violence, almost double the number identified in 2019.”

Financial Times | June 29, 2021

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The Value of Bingeing Animal Crossing

Tom Nook and Econ 101

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons is one of the most popular video games of 2020/21. The game has already sold over 26 million copies, and has become the best-selling title ever for the Nintendo Switch. The premise of this smash-hit might surprise you, though: players don’t fend off malevolent aliens or tame fantastic beasts. Instead, AC:NH is fundamentally about working hard in order to pay off the mortgage on your house.

For many people, this goal will sound remarkably similar to everyday life, even if Nintendo’s version involves adorable anthropomorphized animals. But the game’s highest concentration of players are between ages 15-30 — older Gen Zs and younger Millennials — for whom the prospect of having their own home may still be more dream than reality.

Young people also love the game. If your kids are playing, here are a few valuable financial lessons you might tease out for them.

1) Don’t fritter away your money — reinvest in yourself

There are lots of ways to earn “Bells,” the game’s fictional currency. Players can fish, gather fruits and vegetables, dig for treasure, or build furniture, to name but a few. This is like adult life, where you have to find the vocations you enjoy and are good at. And once you’ve got some money burning a hole in your pocket, the temptation might be to immediately spend it on swag you don’t necessarily need, like new duds or cool stuff for your home. Resist this urge, and put that money towards getting established. Focus on buying better tools, and rake in even more Bells!

2) Save your cash and make it work for you

It isn’t as immediately gratifying, but savvy Animal Crossers can also keep their hard-earned Bells in the game’s bank, where they’ll generate interest. (In fact, fiscally prudent gamers were doing such a good job saving their money that Nintendo actually had to lower the interest rates offered by the in-game bank in order to “to boost virtual spending.”) The lesson here is that if you want to be able to afford that fabulous mansion with the claw-foot bathtub later, get started on saving early! Compound interest — where you generate interest on your principal investment, and then later, make even more money on that interest —  can really add up over time.

3) Get in the real estate game

Players start off living in a cramped tent. (Think of your first place after leaving home, the one where your bedroom was an actual closet.) Happily for gamers, the banker raccoon, Tom Nook, is happy to offer interest-free mortgages so you can expand your fledgling business enterprises, and he never hassles you about the money you owe. In real life, mortgages aren’t quite such a fabulous deal: you’ll have to make monthly payments to the bank, and you’ll definitely have to pay back more than just the initial loan. But you’ll be building equity by putting money into your own investment, instead of someone else’s. 

Who knew a best-selling game could be so instructive? In both the real world and Animal Crossing, the prudent investor tends to end up comfortable enough to afford the luxuries they skimped on earlier. 

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Your Kids Know More Than You: NFT Edition

The ABCs of NFTs.

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Just when you thought you had a handle on cryptocurrency, there’s a new frontier — non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs are, suddenly, everywhere, and the term sounds like it requires a Master of Econ to understand it. Don’t panic. You’re already pretty familiar with fungible goods, since the most common one is money. A $20 bill or a Bitcoin is fungible, Picasso’s “Guernica” is not.

Are we having fungible yet? 

Fungibility, which sadly has nothing to do with mushrooms, refers to any good that is mutually interchangeable with another. A $20 bill has a fixed value, and it’s functionally identical to all $20 in that currency. Shares in a company are fungible — a share in GameStop is the same as any other share in GameStop. Commodities work in the same way: the market agrees on the price of a barrel of oil or an ounce of gold, as long as it meets a “basis grade” standard. Regular cryptocurrencies are fungible tokens (FTs): Bitcoins are digital, but all have the same value.

Contrast this with your child’s crayon drawing attached to your fridge: could you exchange that for a precise dollar amount? Maybe Grandma would buy it… if the price were right, but your bank almost certainly won’t, as that (charming) doodle is non-fungible. It’s a unique artifact with no set value, and it’s not intrinsically interchangeable with other works or assets.

Welcome to the NFT party

A non-fungible token is a digital object that’s one of a kind. The ownership of the object is traceable, standardized through the same blockchain technology that enables cryptocurrencies. (A blockchain is an impenetrable ledger of transactions shared across a network, allowing users to store both cryptocurrencies and NFTs in a secure digital wallet.) This technology enables users to officially “own” an image, video, or even a tweet. Although someone can still take a screenshot or otherwise copy your prized piece of multimedia, they won’t have the unique code that proves it truly belongs to them. Since these things are one of a kind, they’re worth exactly as much (or as little) as someone else will pay for them.

So which kind of token is better?

There is no right answer to this. Cryptocurrency fungible tokens (FTs) fluctuate in value, but at least that value is universally agreed upon. At any given moment, an Ether is worth as much as an Ether, nothing more or less. This makes FTs liquid, since you can easily sell them, and it makes them (reasonably) reliable, since you can know their current worth.

NFTs are tougher to value. Because they’re unique, it’s difficult to know the market value until you try to sell one. Of course, uniqueness signals scarcity, and that scarcity is driving demand, with year over year growth up 38 060%. 

So, is this a bubble or a wise investment? If the Cryptopunks know, they’re not saying. 

We’re happy to watch from the cheap seats.

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Recovery Starts With Z

#JustwatchZ

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Generation Zs are ready to recover. As whispers of an economic recovery sit hopeful on the lips of Boomers, Xs, and Millennials, it’s worth taking a look at the demographics. When it comes to the “green shoots” of a recovery, Gen Z’s got the thumbs.

Here are the facts:

Businesses want/need them. The cohort born between 1996 and 2010 represents 40% of the U.S. population. They are the largest generation on the planet, representing 2.47 billion of the Earth’s 7.7 billion people. They’re also the most diverse. With spending power of $143 billion a year, Gen Z’s consumer preferences will shape all of our futures. Expect that Z’s will want a hand in the shaping.

Governments overlook them. Early economic response to the pandemic was focused almost entirely on older generations. And though Gen Z has lost the greatest number of work hours — by some estimates, a third of Gen Z has been laid off — many in the U.S. don’t qualify for a stimulus cheque because they’re still claimed as dependents by their parents.

They’re already building what’s next. Z’s are projected to be the most educated generation we’ve seen. They anticipate multiple jobs in their lifetimes, and more than 40% of them plan to start their own businesses. They expect to work harder than previous generations. And, as gamers and digital natives, they’ve always been at ease with “physically apart, digitally together“. Expect innovations on the future of work to come from Z. They’ll have an easier time imagining the future, largely because they’ve been living in it.

A Gen Z recovery is a demographic fact — so let’s get those Z’s what they need.

There’s a lot of unease in the world right now — and for today’s young people, that’s nothing new. From Trump trolls to #BLM activism to entrepreneurial innovation, Gen Zs are picking their lanes. Now it’s up to the rest of us to support or get out of the way.

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It’s a Gen Z world and we’re just self-isolating in it.

Zs know how to physically distance and emotionally connect, even in the best of times.

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If there’s one generation that’s uniquely suited to the stay-at-home orders being imposed around the world, it’s today’s teens. That’s because they know how to be physically apart but emotionally together.

Gen Z — roughly defined as those born between 1996 and 2010 — contains multitudes, but many of the traits they’ve displayed in their lives to date are exactly what the current moment requires. They’re independent but connected.

Gen Z has pioneered the art of being physically apart but digitally together.

First, the independence: This is the era of physical distancing, something today’s teens have always done. At first, that seemed to make them the “loneliest generation.” They’ve been forced to live far away from their jobs, for instance. But they’ve shaped their media habits to address that problem, with everything from conversational podcasts to Twitch chats.

Then, the connection: Gen Z is incredibly social, both online and off. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest they don’t really make a distinction: Teens who spent more time online were actually more likely to see their friends offline. Now, with the offline component off the table, we’re all socializing online.

We could all take a lesson on being social in isolation from the Gen that knows it best.

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Do you put your adult children ahead of yourself?

72% of parents are putting their adult children’s needs ahead of their own retirement

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Your adult children likely need money. And you likely want to give them some. The instinct to put your kids’ interests in front of your own is, for a lot of adults, the parental condition: When our babies are hungry, we feed them. When our teenagers are emotional wrecks, we (do our best to) comfort them. And, when our adult children need money for a down payment on a detached semi in an up-and-coming neighbourhood with great public schools and artisanal coffee shops , well, many moms and dads are backing up that dream with their own bank accounts.

According to a recent Merrill Lynch report, 72% of parents are putting their adult children’s interests ahead of their own retirement needs, gifting money for major purchases (down payments and student loans) as well as more day-to-day expenses (childcare, car payments, cell phone bills). Obviously the desire to lend a hand comes from a good place. But is that hand actually helpful for either party? 

“I think Boomer parents recognize that it’s a whole different ballgame for their kids,” says Liz Scheick, a Certified Financial Planner at the New School of Finance in Toronto. Sure, parents have been assisting cash-strapped kids for generations, but the Millennial and Gen Z cohorts face a unique set of challenges as the first generations predicted to earn less than their parents. Incomes haven’t changed much in the last twenty years, but living expenses, real estate, and education costs have skyrocketed.

To offset these injustices, U.S. parents are spending $500 billion on their adult children, twice as much as they’re saving for themselves. And in many cases they’re doing it at their own peril. According to the AARP, it takes between $1-1.5 million to retire. Currently, 1/3 of Boomers in or nearing retirement have saved $25K or less.

Helping adult children first can be like “lighting yourself on fire”

“We use the analogy of lighting yourself on fire to keep someone else warm,” says Scheik, who guides clients through intergenerational wealth management on a regular basis. It’s not about hard and fast rules, she says. 

“What’s important is that (as a parent) you make decisions with an understanding of the implications.” Just as important is debunking the myth that the whole human ATM act is in anyone’s best interest. Experts are agreed that the greatest financial gift a parent can give is a sense of independence and responsibility. Instead of bailing them out of their next jam, Scheik says parents may want to consider paying for financial planning services.

“The sooner you teach your kid about saving, the better.”

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Why Gen Zs crash more cars

The jobs are/were downtown. Downtown housing is too expensive. The obvious solution for Gen Z workers? Live further away. Today’s young workforce is trying to do just that — except, as an Apartment Guide survey reports, they’re getting into accidents on their longer (and longer) commutes. Call it the Gen Z commute. Sure, sure. It’s easy […]

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The jobs are/were downtown. Downtown housing is too expensive. The obvious solution for Gen Z workers? Live further away.

Today’s young workforce is trying to do just that — except, as an Apartment Guide survey reports, they’re getting into accidents on their longer (and longer) commutes.

Call it the Gen Z commute.

Sure, sure. It’s easy to tell people to stop texting and emailing while driving.

But look at the larger problem: People can’t afford housing. They need roommates to stay afloat. They’re pressured to stay hyper-connected to their work. Their cost-of-living budgets (rent, utilities, food) are rising faster than their salaries. They have no choice but to break all three personal finance rules.

Add it all up? And yeah, you’ve got some distracted, addled, stressed-out motorists.

33% of Gen Z workers say they’ve gotten into a car accident while emailing for work. Hear that, bosses? Your Zs need a raise, a rest, and an #OOO reply for two hours a day. Or at the very least, a more generous work from home policy.