For Gen Z, understanding personal finance begins with the most important question — what is money?

In the debut episode of In The Know: Money with Marsai Martin, acclaimed actress and executive producer, Marsai Martin, sits down with Suneye Rae Holmes, an economics professor at Spelman College, to break down the most pressing question that faces Gen Z when it comes personal finance: What exactly is money? 

“Money is a commodity that people acquire just so they can get rid of it,” said Professor Holmes. “And for that reason, it’s very fascinating. It’s intriguing, and it’s bewitching. And the behavior that people engage in to acquire money can be described as healthy or unhealthy, and so we’re very interested in money for these reasons. This thing that I want to get as much of, but then I also want to spend it.” 

Next, Martin asks Professor Holmes about the different creative tracks that Gen Z’ers take to make money. “From rideshares, to social media, to even flipping sneakers on the Internet. Do you see this changing the way we value currency?” asked Martin. 

“So in terms of the innovation that we’re seeing amongst influencers and the gig industry such as rideshares, and all of these new types of labor, I don’t think that it’s going to change how we value money, I do hope it changes how we value labor,” said the econ professor. 

Martin’s next question revolved around the idea that with credit cards, debit cards, and Apple pay becoming more and more popular, do people even need cash anymore? “How close are we to becoming completely cashless?” wondered Martin. 

“We’re already there,” said Professor Holmes. “The future is here.” According to Holmes, even plastic cards, like debit and credit cards, are starting to become “obsolete.”

Instead, according to Holmes, biometrics, like telling an Amazon Alexa to buy something, or having credit card information saved in a smartphone, is slowly taking over how transactions are made. “This is the type of future technology that we’re already embracing,” said Professor Holmes. 

Martin went on to explain that she can’t imagine a society without physical cash, because it’s so ingrained in pop culture and people love showing off stacks of cash as “part of their personality.” 

Professor Holmes agreed, saying that people do have an inherent “attachment to cash that stems from a lot of personality and perhaps sociological traits.” 
“In some sense, we have a lot that we need to address in terms of how we value money,” said Professor Holmes. “How we treat it, how we earn it, how we justify getting it, and whether those means actually justify the end.”

Listen to the latest episode of our pop culture podcast, We Should Talk: