For 18-year-old Anousha Ahmed, based in Virginia, earning income at her first job meant having more freedom.
"My focus wasn't really saving. It was more like, now I have all this discretionary income. I can do whatever I want," Ahmed says.
She briefly worked at a swim school for children earlier this year, and explains that she was able to use her money on experiences such as concerts, traveling, eating at restaurants and going roller skating.
Ahmed isn't the only one in her age bracket putting savings on the back burner. Fidelity Investments' 2022 State of Retirement Planning report found that half of Gen Zers don't see a point in saving money until things return to "normal", while 56% put their retirement planning on hold during the pandemic.
These percentages were slightly lower for millennials, and significantly lower for the Gen X and boomer generations - who are much closer or are already in their retirement years.
Ahmed says the COVID-19 pandemic showed plenty of young people how quickly their "normal" can be stolen away, so it's been important for her to compensate for those missed years with exciting experiences and good memories.
If your retirement plans have been thrown off by inflation, here's a stress-free way to get back on track
Too many Americans are still missing out on cheaper car insurance
A TikToker paid off $17,000 in credit card debt by 'cash stuffing' - can it work for you?
Young people are investing in themselves
Plenty of young people may be taking advantage of their post-lockdown time to travel and take part in activities they couldn't do before. But others may also be making strategic decisions around their finances.
With all the economic uncertainty going on right now, many young folks may be seeking some sort of control, says Lauryn Williams, a certified financial planner and founder of Worth Winning, a company that helps young professionals organize their finances.
She points to rising inflation - the consumer price index rose to 9.1% in June - and stock market volatility. Americans are facing financial strain due to rising housing, grocery and gas costs. It's also difficult to put faith into the stock market, which has seen some significant ups and downs this year.
"'I don't want to lose anything else, I feel like I'm losing money all the time,' is what someone said to me recently," Williams recalls. She says some people may decide to hold onto their cash or put their money into things they can control.
Williams said that young people may consider investing in themselves and their professional growth instead - such as starting their own businesses or furthering their education.
Ahmed - a first year student at University of Virginia intends to major in commerce with a concentration on information tech and management - has often considered starting her own business as well.
And she says it's important for her to take college classes that would benefit her and pursue a degree that would give her a "high return on investment" at the end of it.
"It's like, you make yourself better so that you can make more money in the long run."
When should young people start saving for retirement?
The sooner people start saving for retirement, the better, Williams advises. You may be able to benefit from compound growth - which means your savings will grow with interest over time.
Most experts recommend you save at least 15% of your pre-tax income for retirement each year, assuming you begin at age 25.
However, a report from Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies - a division of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute that focuses on saving and financial planning for retirement - found that Gen Z investors typically start saving for retirement at the age of 19.
But you need to be able to adapt and rejig your priorities based on what's happening in your life, Williams adds.
Not putting money into a retirement fund isn't necessarily a bad thing, she explains - your retirement plan might just look a little different if you've decided to focus on your professional growth instead.
"More young professionals are betting on themselves," Williams explains. "They're looking at the investment in themselves as their retirement plan, like I can fill this thing. And that's going to be the payoff."
"Right now, [they may be thinking] I don't want to put money into a retirement account, because that's taking away from the dollars that I have been able to invest in myself and what I'm trying to do to achieve my dreams and create an impact for the world."
It's important to find the right balance with your finances
"The biggest thing is always that planning piece of the puzzle," Williams notes. Many people increased their savings during the pandemic, which meant they had more room for spending when lockdowns were lifted and restrictions eased.
You need to keep asking yourself questions, she says. You may find yourself in situations where you'll have to choose between being able to securely spend $50,000 in your retirement or having a good time with your family and friends right now.
She tells her clients to find areas in their lives where they can make adjustments on their spending.
"Where can I clip back in some other areas so that I can do the things that are at the top of my priority list?"
Ahmed says her current goal is to become more cognizant of the value of money and how to save it.
"I spent a pretty good chunk of the amount of money that I made at my job already. I would just go through it. Like it was nothing," she admits.
When she starts college in the fall, Ahmed plans on finding a job or paid internship to sustain herself - and she says she's going to budget her expenses as well.
What to read next
High prices, rising interest rates and a volatile stock market - here's why you need a financial advisor as a recession looms
Mitt Romney says a billionaire tax will trigger demand for these two physical assets - get in now before the super-rich swarm
There's a 'perfect storm' brewing in the multifamily housing market - here are 3 of the easiest ways to take advantage
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.