Boomers are more financially prepared for the 2022 holiday season compared to other generations

A Credit Karma Study

Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

According to a Credit Karma survey conducted by Qualtrics, Boomers may be more financially prepared than other generations for this upcoming holiday season. They’re more likely to be able to afford gifts and less likely to take on debt.

We used the Pew Research Foundation’s definitions for each generation. However, the Gen Z participants for this study were all at least 18, and our Boomer pool included some Silent Generation participants, as noted in this table.

Generation definitions

Date rangeGeneration
1964 or beforeBoomer (plus Silent)
1965–1980Gen X
1981–1996Millennial
1997–2012Gen Z (18 and up)

Read on to find out more about how financially ready different generations are for the holidays.

Boomers may be more financially secure compared to other generations

Boomers on the whole may be feeling more financially secure heading into this holiday season, especially when compared to younger generations.

Overall, 36% of Americans polled in our survey say they won’t be able to afford gifts this year, and over 48% of Gen Z respondents said they can’t give presents this year. A much smaller share of Boomers — only 28% — said they don’t have the money for gifts this holiday season.

But most Boomers who can’t or don’t want to spend aren’t sweating it. Just 13% say they feel pressure to buy gifts they can’t afford, compared to 42% of Gen Z and 41% of millennials.

Nearly a third of all survey-takers say they don’t plan on taking on any debt this holiday season, compared to 40% of Boomers — although it’s unclear whether that’s because Boomers are choosing to cut down rather than take on debt or because they have the cash to pay for everything outright.

Meanwhile, only 26% of Gen Z respondents anticipate making it through the holidays without taking on additional debt.

In terms of overall holiday spending, only 12% of Boomers plan to spend more than last year. This compares to 21% of those surveyed and 31% of millennials. Boomers are the generation most likely to say they’re planning to spend the same amount as last year. About 40% of Boomers have unchanged budgets for the 2022 season, compared to only 26% of millennials and Gen Xers.

Despite all of this, Boomers are more likely than other generations to report experiencing pain points from inflation. When asked about the factors causing the largest amount of financial stress, 59% of Boomers selected inflation. Gen X and millennials also most commonly cited inflation as causing financial concerns, at 53% and 54% respectively. Gen Z was more concerned with not earning enough money.

Of the 12% of Boomers planning to spend more on the holidays this year, a whopping 70% cited inflation as one of the major reasons. The next highest group is Gen Zers at only 42%.

Of the 28% of Boomers who are having trouble affording holiday shopping this year, 60% blame inflation for making things too expensive. In fact, some 19% of Boomers are relying on cash and gifts to make ends meet through the holiday season, while 46% of Gen Z and millennials are counting on monetary or gift infusions.

Gen Z is the most stressed generation when it comes to money

According to the survey, Gen Z’s mental health and emotional connections have suffered because of money stress. The youngest generation was far more likely to report negative feelings around money, especially when compared to Boomers. This could partially be because they’re in a more financially vulnerable stage of life.

For example, 54% of the overall study population cite money as their biggest source of stress. Meanwhile, that number rises to a massive 70% amongst Gen Z, compared to only 42% of Boomers. Unsurprisingly, Gen Z is also more likely to report that finances have a negative impact on their mental health — 64% say their finances affect them, while only 30% of Boomers agree.

Money troubles are also more likely to hurt younger peoples’ relationships with family, friends and significant others. Gen Z, millennials and Gen X had roughly similar rates, while Boomers scored significantly lower.

GenerationPercent reporting money negatively affects relationshipsPercent reporting finances negatively affect mental health
Gen Z42%64%
Millennial41%50%
Gen X37%48%
Boomer17%30%
All respondents32%44%

Conversely, among those who report finances negatively impacting their mental health, Gen Z is the generation most likely to have sought help for managing the emotional health effects. While 64% of Gen Z got help, that number went down by each generation. Millennials clocked in at 42%, Gen X at 39% and a mere 27% of Boomers asked for help.

‘Gifts for family’ is the most cited reason for holiday debt in 2022

Among all respondents who expect to go into debt for the holidays, the most common way to spend borrowed cash is on gifts for family. Three-quarters of Gen Zers who are using borrowed funds are spending it on family, compared to 53% to 59% for other generations.

Interestingly, Boomers are the least likely to go into debt traveling to see family and friends for festivities at only 14%, while millennials and Gen Z were the most likely at 23% and 22%, respectively. This could be because Boomers as the older generation are hosting family rather than traveling to visit them.

Meanwhile, among those millennials planning to assume debt, 21% will use at least some of that money on a holiday vacation — more than double the share of any other generation.

Up to 20% of millennials are stressed about affording gifts because they feel that they’ve waited too long to start thinking about holiday shopping, despite being the group most likely to have begun shopping early. A pretty big share —  31% — began shopping for the holidays before October, including 2% who started shopping for the 2022 season in 2021!

For all generations, November is the most popular month to start shopping. Despite scads of Christmas movies implying otherwise, most folks don’t wait until December to get started. Boomers are the most likely to wait, with 11% saying they plan to start shopping in the 12th month.

One thing to note: This dataset doesn’t account for what month respondents celebrate gift-giving holidays.

Some don’t plan on doing any holiday shopping at all. Over 10% of Boomers and 3% of millennials planned to abstain from holiday spending in 2022.

Next steps

There’s no time like the present to start saving up for holiday shopping or getting a jump on your list. In the meantime, here’s some reading to help guide your potential next steps:

Methodology

On behalf of Credit Karma, Qualtrics conducted a nationally representative online survey on Sept. 23 to 27, 2022, polling 1,037 American adults ages 18 and older to better understand financial stresses around the holidays.


About the author: Gaby Lapera is a researcher and writer at Credit Karma and a personal finance expert. She also spends time working on investing and science communication. Gaby graduated with a master's degree in biological anthropolo… Read more.