Millennials have been labeled as inaccessible skeptics. They are the generation that was hit hardest by unemployment during the recession of 2008, as many had recently graduated from college and were unable to find work,1 and they responded by creating Occupy Wall Street. They also have some of the greatest amounts of student loan debt,2 and less than a quarter of them believe investing in the stock market is the best place to store their money long-term.3
But millennials matter. The largest generation in America,4 they are set to inherit the Baby Boomer wealth, and, contrary to popular belief, many want to save and invest with long-term goals. Some millennials—especially millennial parents—are on track to out save their Baby Boomer parents.5
With a lifetime of wealth generation ahead of them, we should consider how their financial concerns are different, and how they can best plan for their own futures. Understanding the big financial picture now will allow them to set their personal strategy for a retirement that, for many, may seem out of reach.
These factors differentiate millennials’ financial planning needs from other generations:
They Are Not Getting Married
While the rates of traditional marriage have been on a downward trajectory for generations, marriage rates among millennials appear to be in free fall. According to the Gottman Institute, even those millennials that choose to marry do so at a much later age, with the average age for women being 29.2 and for men being 30.9.6 These are the latest average marrying ages in modern history.
Tax rates, eligibility for entitlement programs, and the availability of social safety nets are all altered by marital status. Many millennials who decide not to marry, or to marry later, may need advice on how to approach a financial life with fewer of these buffers that are associated with marriage.
"Many millennials worry that they’ll have to work forever to support themselves and their families. If they have a plan, that doesn’t have to be their reality."
Their Parents Are Likely to Live Longer than Any Previous Generation’s Parents7
One of the most strategic moves parents of a millennial can make is to invite their children into meetings with their financial advisors. Many retirees may one day slow down to the point that their children and grandchildren will be making decisions for them. Those children and grandchildren may be unprepared for that responsibility. The life of a child or grandchild could be put on hold if there’s a medical outcome. Imagine the difference if parents have a conversation around finances before the medical crisis begins.
They Probably Don’t Trust You
The “don’t trust anyone over 30” sentiment of the Boomers’ generation turned into “don’t trust anyone wearing a suit” for the millennials. Any conversation around financial planning will have to overcome the breach in trust the recession created between millennials and the financial sector. Millennials may be more likely to have a successful conversation if it’s framed as mentoring instead of directing. Because millennials value their time and experiences over material possessions and high salaries,8 they may need to be asked what in their life they are going to sacrifice to make the time to learn how to master their finances on their own. They also may be more engaged if they understand that investing and purpose can go hand-in-hand. If asked, “What is it that you care about, that if we can focus on and achieve, would make you thrilled with your progress?” millennials could then begin to trust financial planning as having the meaning and purpose their generation craves.
Many millennials worry that they’ll have to work forever to support themselves and their families. If they have a plan, that doesn’t have to be their reality. The upcoming transfer of wealth to their generation presents tremendous opportunity, especially if they are prepared. Providing transparent information to millennials and encouraging them to participate in the process, starting now, may rebuild the trust needed for them to see the meaning in money.
Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.
The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and individuals quoted and should not be construed as a recommendation or as complete.