Gen Z Has a Different Idea About Who Should Pay the Bills

An exclusive poll for Newsweek shows those in Gen Z believe that the higher earner in a household should pay the majority of the bills.

How household expenses are divided between couples often becomes a topic of debate, particularly when there is a disparity in earnings. One mom was cheered for demanding that her husband cover all of the bills because he earned more than twice her monthly wage.

Redfield & Wilton Strategies asked 1,500 U.S. adults on behalf of Newsweek how they believe household expenses should be split between couples, and there was a big generational difference.

Of those aged 18-24 (who would be in Generation Z), 40 percent believed that couples should split their bills depending on their earnings—with 31 percent believing that a 50/50 split is fair and 20 percent agreeing that it depends on the couple.

Gen Z and bills
A file photo of a group of Gen Z adults, and a picture of a pile of household bills. Gen Z have a different view on how household bills should be split. ViewApart/Rawpixel/Getty Images

But other generations didn't agree—in fact, the older the participants, the more they felt that the way bills were split should always be equal or depended heavily on the couple's situation.

Those aged 25-34 (millennials), were less likely to opt for a split based on income, with just 30 percent agreeing that bills should be paid based on earnings. Similarly, of people aged 35-44 (millennials and Gen X), just 26 percent believed that higher earners should foot higher bills.

Even for couples that do share their household expenses equally, it isn't always clear-cut when it comes to who pays for what. One man was dragged online recently for refusing to pay for his children's nursery fees or kids' clothing—despite the fact his wife was still on maternity leave and bringing in a much lower wage.

Polly Arrowsmith, a 55-year-old London-based financial expert who coaches women in investments, told Newsweek: "Money is the subject that causes the most relationship breakups. If people have a similar income, then a 50/50 split is fair."

But while for some an equal split of outgoings may work, it's rarely that simple. Couples earning the same amount are few and far between, and things become particularly complex when factoring in elements like the gender pay gap and who takes time out of their career to care for children or maintain a household.

Where income isn't equal between partners, Arrowsmith said: "The common costs should be split pro rata based on income if they don't. The critical point is that both parties agree on an equitable and fair split that works for them. Any resentment will come out."

Of course, some people find different ways of working out their finances as a couple too: "Some people I know split bills 50/50, and the richer partner may pay for entertainment and holidays. It works for them," said Arrowsmith.

'Money is a subject that we can now talk about'

It's no secret that the younger generations are facing growing financial challenges. With the rising costs of rent, higher inflation, and job losses, Gen Z is struggling to get into the rental market and more likely to change jobs frequently than older people.

But Arrowsmith explained that the Gen Z attitude to finances is still likely to be positive.

"Money is a subject that we can now talk about. When I was young, it was taboo to ask how much people earned or how much money they had as savings," she said. "This is a very positive thing to happen to talk about money."

As more young people look at the financial environment of 2023, many are opting to spend money in different ways than their older counterparts too.

"Many younger people realize they may never be able to afford their property, so they look for experiences," said Arrowsmith. "These memories are priceless."

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