Study: Are Creative Financial Strategies the New Stepping Ladder to Financial Freedom?

Creative Financial Strategies

Many Americans are turning to unconventional financial strategies to manage their finances. With the cost of living rising and salaries not getting the memo, it’s no surprise that everyone is getting creative with their financial planning.

So, what are they willing to do?

Our study sheds light on these trends, revealing most people we surveyed consider unique living arrangements to save money, with notable variations across generations and genders. 

Below, we’ll discuss the numbers and the factors driving these decisions.

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Key Takeaways

  • 62% of survey respondents would opt for unconventional living arrangements, such as moving back in with parents or co-living with an ex to save money. Gen Z demonstrates a notably higher interest in these living hacks at 71%, surpassing millennials at 52%.
  • 27% of Americans in our survey might choose relationships for financial benefits, such as staying in toxic relationships or opting for loveless marriages rather than for genuine connection, with surveyed Gen Z men showing the highest willingness (30%)
  • Millennial survey respondents are slightly more likely (20%) than Gen Z (17%) survey participants to stay in a toxic relationship for financial support.
  • 15% are willing to engage in high-risk tax strategies, including risky investments and income concealment, with surveyed Gen Z men (24%) most willing.
  • 17% of those surveyed said they would consider relocating to countries with lower tax rates, with surveyed Gen Z women (22%) showing the highest interest.

Over 60% of Americans in the Survey Would Use Unorthodox Living Arrangements to Save Money

From co-living with friends and moving back in with parents to, yes, even sharing space with ex-partners to cut costs, Americans participating in the survey say they are finding unique ways to make ends meet. However, most are leaning toward the first two.

Americans save money with unique arrangements graphic

A whopping 71% of Gen Z respondents said they are considering these creative living arrangements to lighten their financial load, compared to 52% of millennial respondents. 

This big difference shows just how much the younger generation is open to trying new things to save a buck. High student loans, lower starting salaries, and sky-high rent prices are pushing Gen Z to think outside the box when it comes to living situations.

Gen Zers and Millennials save money with unique arrangements graphic

Unsurprisingly, men in the survey said they would rather move in with friends than move back in with their parents, reminding us of the rampant social stigma about men who haven’t left the nest.

Living with friends is the top choice across the board, according to survey results. And there’s a bright side to it. This kind of setup is helping build stronger communities, moving away from the “every man for himself” mentality that’s been so prevalent.

Men and Women save money with unique arrangements graphic

Pooled resources, shared chores, and the emotional support from living with friends can make a huge difference in daily life. But what does this say about the current economy?

Nothing good, unfortunately. The rising cost of living and housing prices are pushing people to find new ways to cut expenses. The differences in how generations are handling this are pretty interesting too. 

Let’s see how the two compare.

Gen Z’s Money-Saving Solution: Co-Living and Moving Back Home

Gen Z survey respondents show a strong preference for co-living with friends to split expenses, with 46% favoring this option compared to 33% of millennial respondents. 

Gen Zers co-living and moving home graphic

For Gen Zers, co-living may feel more like a lifestyle choice, something that’s part of their social fabric. The shared living experience can create a sense of belonging and camaraderie, leading to mental well-being. Millennials, on the other hand, often see it as a necessary move due to financial pressures.

Then there’s the trend of moving back in with parents — almost half of Gen Z respondents (44%) said they are OK with moving back home to save on rent, compared to 27% of millennial respondents. 

Remember when moving out on your own after college was the norm? Not so much anymore.

Fun fact about Boomerang Kids graphic

High living costs and small wage growth are making traditional paths to financial independence less achievable. So, moving back home can be a smart move for Gen Zers, helping them save money, pay off debt, and plan for the future, whether that’s buying a home or starting a family. 

Love for Sale: 27% of Americans Would Stay in Relationships for Financial Gain

It’s no secret that money can make or break a relationship, and it turns out a significant number of Americans would lean on their partners for financial support. 

More than one-fourth (27%) of survey respondents admit they would be willing to stay in toxic relationships or marry for tax benefits to gain financial support. This trend crosses generational lines and gender, with women and millennials, in particular, saying they would likely seek financial support from their partners — shedding light on the significant role financial considerations play in modern relationship dynamics.

The financial price of love graphic

While we’d all like to think that love is the primary driver in relationships, the reality is that financial stability can be just as important. It’s easy to understand why: Financial security can make a huge difference in relationship satisfaction. 

Money troubles are one of the leading causes of stress in relationships and can often lead to breakups if not managed well. When bills pile up and financial uncertainty looms, it’s tough to focus on romance. So, some people might stay in a relationship longer than they would otherwise because it provides a financial safety net.

So, how does this manifest in millennials and Gen Z?

Millennials Are More Likely to Stay in Toxic Relationships to Support Financial Needs

Millennials are slightly more likely to stay in toxic relationships for financial support, with 20% of millennial respondents admitting to sticking it out for the sake of their bank accounts, compared to 17% of Gen Z respondents. This tells us a lot about how financial dependence can sometimes outweigh personal well-being when it comes to staying in a relationship.

Both men and women find themselves in this predicament, but more women (19%) than men (17%) said they were staying in these toxic relationships for financial support. Women, who often face wage gaps and higher living costs, might find it even more challenging to break free from financial dependence on a partner.

The role of finance in relationships graphic

The 2008 financial crisis was a defining moment for this generation, hitting just as many were entering the workforce or about to. Job markets were tough, wages stagnated, and many millennials took on significant student loan debt, all of which contributed to a shaky start in their financial journeys. 

Fast forward to today, and while things have improved somewhat, the shadow of those early economic hardships still looms large.

Millennials have also faced slower wage growth compared to previous generations, and the cost of living has continued to rise, especially in urban areas where many job opportunities are concentrated. Rent, healthcare, and everyday expenses have all gone up. This economic squeeze means that leaving a relationship — even a toxic one — can feel like stepping off a financial cliff.

Men and women unique financial living situation graphic

Sometimes, breaking up means losing half the rent money or having to give up the health insurance provided through a partner’s job. These significant financial hurdles can keep people in relationships that are bad for their mental and emotional health. 

It’s a survival strategy, albeit a painful one, driven by economic necessity.

Maybe we need a modern-day Shakespeare to write “Romeo and Juliet: The Budget Edition,” where the star-crossed lovers aren’t just battling feuding families but also trying to split the rent. 

Imagine the drama of Juliet exclaiming, “Parting is such sweet sorrow — but who will cover the Wi-Fi bill if you leave?”

Marriage Isn’t Always About Love; Tax Benefits Matter Too

Some Americans consider marriage primarily for tax benefits rather than love. In the survey, 12% of respondents admit to this motivation, reflecting the practical considerations that sometimes underpin marital decisions. 

One could argue that every marriage involves some level of financial planning. Whether it’s joining bank accounts, sharing bills, or planning for future investments, financial discussions are a big part of married life. So, seeing marriage as a strategic financial decision isn’t too far-fetched. In fact, it’s quite common.

Love and taxes graphic

The “marriage penalty” or “marriage bonus” in the tax code can mean paying less in taxes, making it a savvy financial move. Depending on your income bracket and how much you and your partner earn, getting married can mean paying fewer taxes. For some couples, this bonus can be substantial enough to sway their decision toward marriage.

Interestingly, millennials in the survey revealed they are only slightly less likely than other generations to enter a marriage due to tax reasons. 

But what about the gender dynamics in this scenario? Do men and women think differently about marriage for tax benefits? 

The short answer is yes, but not by a huge margin.

More Men Than Women Would Jump Into a Loveless Marriage

Although both men and women in the survey said they are keen to have financially driven relationships (27% and 26%, respectively), there are slight variations in what scenarios they would be willing to endure.

Both genders said they are more likely to stick around in a toxic relationship rather than jump into a marriage solely for financial reasons. However, when it comes to tying the knot for tax benefits, men in the survey revealed they are a bit more inclined than women respondents to take the plunge into a loveless marriage. 

Financial incentives lead to loveless marriages graphic

It’s not that women in the survey don’t see the financial perks; they just seem to prioritize emotional well-being a bit more when it comes to making lifelong commitments.

On the flip side, women in the survey reported they are slightly more willing than men to endure toxic relationships if it means easing their financial burdens. This willingness can be influenced by various factors, such as wage gaps and higher living costs that women often face, making financial support from a partner a crucial aspect of their economic stability.

So, while both men and women navigate the complex interplay between love and money, their strategies and tolerances differ slightly, according to the survey responses.

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes: How Are Americans Getting Around Them?

Taxes are an unavoidable part of life, but how Americans choose to handle them can vary widely. Gen Z survey respondents seem to be more comfortable than millennials with the idea of avoiding taxes, whether legal or illegal.

Gen Z versus Millennials tax avoidance tactics graphic

Here’s where it gets interesting: With the rise of remote work and the increasing feasibility of living abroad, Gen Z respondents said they are leaning toward moving to tax havens rather than get entangled in risky schemes. Countries with lower tax rates and attractive incentives are drawing in young professionals who can work from anywhere. 

Between men and women, however, the choice to relocate is an entirely different story.

Gen Z Women Considering Moving Abroad For Lower Tax Rates

A notable 19% of Gen Z respondents said they are seriously eyeing the idea of relocating to countries with lower tax rates. Interestingly, it seems the surveyed ladies of Gen Z are leading the charge here, with 18% showing a keen interest in this option. As for the guys and millennials in the survey, they’re not as gung-ho about the idea, but it’s definitely on their radar, with 14% and 15%, respectively, considering the move.

Now, why the sudden urge to pack up and head for greener (or less taxed) pastures? 

Moving for better tax rates graphic

With more companies embracing the idea of telecommuting, the world is your oyster when it comes to where you clock in. Add to that the growing tribe of digital nomads, and you’ve got a recipe for a global workforce on the move.

So, it’s no wonder that countries offering not just lower tax rates but also a better quality of life are starting to look like prime destinations for ambitious young professionals. Imagine trading in your cramped city apartment for a beachfront villa in a tropical paradise — all while paying less in taxes. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right?

Some countries even offer Golden Visa programs, which grant residency in exchange for investment — like a VIP pass to tax savings.

Men More Likely to Consider Risky Investments and Hide Money

Engaging in high-risk investments to claim tax deductions is a strategy 8% of respondents consider. This willingness to dance on the edge of legality could be a sign of deeper dissatisfaction with the tax system — or maybe just a rebellious streak.

Such strategies seem to appeal to mostly men in the survey,10% of whom said they were more likely than women respondents to engage in tax schemes. 

Gender gaps in tax avoidance

Women in the survey aren’t exactly playing it safe when it comes to taxes, either. They’re just taking a slightly different approach by looking for legal ways to minimize their tax burden.

Regardless of gender, everyone seems to be united in their quest to pay as little in taxes as possible — whether it’s through legal means or riskier maneuvers like playing the stock market.

So, Where Does That Leave Us?

Survey findings reveal that Americans navigate economic challenges in different ways, showing a pragmatic and sometimes desperate approach to financial management. 

Gen Z respondents, in particular, are proactive about innovative living hacks and tax strategies, while millennials tend to endure toxic relationships for financial stability. Gender differences also play a role, with men in the survey more inclined toward risky tax schemes and women respondents revealing they are more open to packing up their lives and moving for better tax conditions.

“It’s one thing to think outside the box and push yourself a little harder to make ends meet or get ahead, but I would never suggest participating in harmful behavior to do so,”  said Erica Sandberg, Finance Expert. “Living with your parents for a specific period of time to save money? As long as it’s done respectfully and you have an exit plan, great! Staying with an abusive partner because it’s financially beneficial when you have other options? That’s an absolute no. Your safety is paramount. Even staying in a loveless or toxic relationship can take a toll that has long-term ramifications.”

“Always weigh the strategies and sacrifices you make to pay the bills and save money against the potential downsides,” Sandberg continued. “A creative approach is wonderful. A dangerous one is not”. 

While some strategies may raise eyebrows, they highlight the resilience and resourcefulness of people facing economic pressures. 

So, the next time you find yourself strategizing about money, remember: You’re not alone—many Americans are figuring out the best hacks to stay afloat.

Survey Methodology

This article’s insights are based on a survey of 1,002 U.S. consumers aged 18 to 43. The survey included an equal representation of Gen Z and millennials. Respondents were asked about their financial strategies, revealing diverse approaches ranging from shared living arrangements to complex tax maneuvers.

This, in turn, provided a comprehensive view of contemporary financial strategies.