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A generational trend

According to a study from personal finance company, Credit Karma, 35% of Gen Z and 43% of millennials reported that they cope with stress by spending.

Within the last year, Miller, who lives in a two-bedroom subsidized apartment in one of Washington, D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods, had put her education on hold, forgoing her social work degree to raise her three kids — the youngest of whom was born in the summer of 2022.

With the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) as her only source of income, she leaned on food stamps and WIC, a program that offers low-income mothers nutritional support, to keep her family fed.

“Groceries last us the first three weeks of the month, then it’s trying to figure out the last week of my benefits,” she said. “It lasts, but it cuts close.”

With the Miami trip, Miller said her kids got to experience something she never could have previously offered them, in addition to a significant mental health boost.

During those five days, Miller and her family enjoyed steak dinners, a lavish boat cruise and plenty of souvenirs for the kids. Much of the remainder of the funds went to bills and a used car.

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Allocating the remaining funds

A 2023 survey from fintech company Intuit found that 3 in 4 Gen Z members would rather have a better quality of life via experiences than more money in the bank.

“Gen Z is interested in living for now,” said Brittney Castro, certified financial planner and consumer finance advocate at Intuit. “This is more about comfort, less stress, less pressure to save for the future and really balancing it out.”

Although some of this might ring true for Miller, she told the Washington Post that she has a financial plan in place for her family.

And while some might dismiss her decision to take her family on a trip to Miami as irresponsible, she insisted to the Post that the vacation served a “greater purpose.”

Miller said that the Strong Families, Strong Future program taught her financial literacy via a variety of offered courses. With some of the remaining $4,000 in funds she received, she also opened a savings account and made a promise to herself to keep an emergency fund at all times.

“I’m trying to get to the level where I’m passing something down [to my kids] that really matters, so I can be set and my kids can be set, and they don’t need to push so hard like I’m doing now.”

Since being selected by the Strong Families, Stronger Future program, Miller has started coaching flag football part-time and is enrolled in a free course on information technology at a local school. She has plans to graduate in the coming weeks with a remote job that offers $30 an hour.

All this has happened, she said, thanks to the confidence the government-assisted program has given her.

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Laura Grande Associate Editor

Laura Grande is an editor and SEO content migration specialist at Moneywise with more than a decade of industry experience. Throughout her career she's written about (and edited) a variety of topics, from careers and health to pop culture and fashion. Her work has appeared on HGTV Canada, Food Network Canada, Today's Parent, Zoomer Magazine and SLICE, among others.

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