You might be surprised to learn that 37% of Gen Z doesn’t know how to change a lightbulb!
It’s no secret that life today requires a different skill set than when the Greatest Generation came of age. These great-great grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and two World Wars would likely scoff at that idea.
This ability to navigate all the regular challenges of adulthood — life skills — is constantly changing. Clever Real Estate recently surveyed 1,000 people to see exactly how they felt about the importance of life skills and how they ranked their proficiency in different areas. There were significant differences between genders, levels of education, and generations.
The big takeaway might be the contrast between boomers and their youngest counterparts, Gen Z. Across the board, boomers and Gen Z have nearly opposite life skills, reflecting the differing worlds in which each generation came of age. These generational challenges remain and have even expanded as Gen Z comes of age and enters the world of adulthood.
Nearly Half Of Americans Value Money Management Skills
In the U.S., there is some consensus on which life skills are the most valuable.
Money management took the top spot as something that 46% of respondents valued the most, followed closely in a tie for second place by people/communication skills and problem-solving (42%). Rounding out the top five, in order from most important to least, were:
- Critical thinking: 36%
- Maintaining mental health: 33%
- Maintaining physical health: 32%
The lowest-ranked life skills were jobs stereotypically categorized in the past as “women’s work” or outsourced to other lower-paid people. Others were cleaning (13%) and childcare or caregiving (12%).
1 In 7 Americans Struggle With Writing A Check
Shockingly, people in America struggle with basic math (14%) and basic financial skills like writing a check (14%). Overall, just over one in five people in the U.S. need more confidence in their money management skills, including everything from putting together a budget to choosing a healthcare plan – 22% struggle with both.
Real Estate Witch’s study highlighted challenges with technology, too, but not necessarily in an obvious way. 44% of all respondents admitted to using their phones constantly, but many were the victims of phone scams.
Boomers, a generation relatively new to smartphones, were least likely to be fooled on the phone. Still, millennials were scammed at a much higher rate (24% to 34%). With 28% of Gen Z and 26% of Gen X falling prey to scammers, it’s clear that navigating the perils of the smartphone has become an issue for every generation.
Men Have More Confidence In Their Skills And Intelligence
Agreeing on the importance of specific skills was the only thing men and women agreed on. And the most basic life skills in which men and women disagree? Perception of their intelligence.
Men consistently reported having above-average intelligence (61%) and better-than-average emotional intelligence (59%). In contrast, just 51% of women felt they had above-average general intelligence and only 53% higher than average emotional intelligence.
This difference shows how frequently men and women will likely ask for help with minor home repairs. Women are 34% more likely to call in an expert for minor home repairs. Men report being 25% more likely to grab the toolbox and fix it themselves.
College Grads More Confident Than Non-Grads
Gender plays out between non-college and college grads, too. While only 59% of women find their college degree valuable in everyday life, 71% of men believe it is helpful as they go about their day.
Men feel more prepared for adulthood than women (61% vs 46%), which may be attributed to their course of study. Very few men and women study personal finance in school (38% to 34%). The gap increases when it comes to career-focused classes like real estate. Just 15% of women reported taking these courses, but 29% of men explored the work and benefits of becoming a realtor.
Overall, regardless of gender, most college grads report an improvement in critical thinking and problem solving (79%) as well as communications skills (78%). Importantly, these are the two skills that people surveyed placed a high value on.
And even though 68% believe their degree is the reason for a higher salary, nearly half still feel that college did not prepare them for real life. Specifically, 71% feel their personal finance education needs to be improved regarding their student loans. Another 55% say they learned nothing about cooking and cleaning during their years in school, but these were among the lowest-ranked skills.
Generally, college graduates think they are more intelligent, better financial managers than non-college graduates. Whether true or not, college graduates are 37% more likely to give themselves higher-than-average intelligence and 62% more likely to rank their finances as better.
Generational Differences In Hands-On Skills
Boomers have a distinct advantage when it comes to DIY skills. Even though 68% of survey respondents referred to themselves as “handy,” 37% of Gen Z say they don’t know how to change a lightbulb. Blame that on an LED’s long-lasting, energy-efficient magic, but that’s a tough pill to swallow when sitting in the dark.
In addition, boomers are the most likely of all generations to own a toolkit, with 76% stocking essential tools for home repair. That edges out Gen X, three-quarters of whom keep a respectable assortment of tools. But that doesn’t make boomers artisans.
They may be better able to maintain their belongings. Still, Gen Z is more than twice as capable of crafting their own furniture as boomers (25% to 11%, respectively). This uneven distribution of life skills includes taking care of clothing: 86% of boomers can sew on a missing button, but 42% of Gen Z will need to ask for help.
Boomers also feel superior to Gen Z regarding general knowledge (46%) and real estate knowledge (44%). This makes sense, as Gen Z hasn’t likely had to worry about covering closing costs yet.
Other notable differences include:
- 31% of Gen Z can name Taylor’s Swifts latest album, but only 17% know who represents them in Congress. Millennials do better — 27% can name the album, and 20% can name their representatives.
- Only three-fourths of the U.S. is confident they could get a date in person.
- 25% of people across generations need help to read a paper map.
- 13% of Americans don’t think the U.S. has a capitol.
- Boomers are over twice as likely to read a physical newspaper than Gen Z (60% to 26%).
- Millennials and Gen X are the most likely to send handwritten notes and letters (37%).
Ben Mizes is the co-founder and CEO at Clever Real Estate, the nation’s leading real estate education platform for home buyers, sellers, and investors.