Sympathy For Millennials: Financial Advisors' Daily Digest
By SA For FAs :
Like high-school seniors hazing the class beneath them, older folks deriding the generation coming after it is not one of the more admirable patterns found in human nature. It puts one in mind of the old Borscht Belt joke, that the reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.
So it is with interest that I noted a new survey by LendEDU of 1,000 Americans aged 65 or over on how they reckon the financial circumstances of millennials. It's a nice contribution to intergenerational peace. LendEDU asked: "Do you think it is more difficult to become financially sound now as a 20-something than it was when you were in your 20s?" Another question was more critical: "What is the biggest mistake that millennials are making with money today?" Nevertheless, the thrust of questioning tended to generate sympathy rather than millennial-bashing.
For example, a majority of senior citizens (53%) believe today's 20-somethings have it tougher than they did. And large proportions either don't expect Social Security will be around for millennials (30%) or have doubts about it (44%).
I think this more sympathetic outlook is a good thing. For the truth is that millennials, like every generation, possess strengths and weaknesses shaped by their unique times. It is incumbent on their elders to try to understand them, and for them to develop a self-understanding, in order to more successfully navigate to the right influences and shield themselves from the wrong ones. If only we - parents, teachers, employers - put as much into this effort as Madison Avenue does to market to them.
I don't claim special expertise here - I'm actually hoping for your help in the comments section - but I would venture to suggest that a strength of millennials is their sincerity. They know when they're being lied to or flattered (maybe because they grew up at a time when everybody had to be stroked for being the best, even without putting in the effort), and they have a desire to seek out the truth. Their greatest challenge, I would suggest, is one to which most are completely blind: They can't concentrate in same way their elders could because they are on the receiving end of an incessant flow of junk streaming at them from every possible form of electronic media.
Let's come back to the LendEDU survey and its effort to refute the idea that millennials are somehow to blame for bringing down the economy. They wisely enlisted millennials' natural allies - their grandparents (the surveyed population was 65 or older). That's a good start. Moreover, millennials didn't create this economy - they came of age in it. So what then is this new generation's unique role - given its unique set of strengths and weaknesses? It is to screen out the nonsense (given their media addictions) in order to seek out the truth (given their sincere desire to do so).
This task entails starting an electronic diet, monitoring content for what is truly valuable and, as relates to their financial aspirations, plugging in instead to those timeless truths that will help them prosper in today's uniquely trying circumstances. In that regard, I point to the survey's Question No. 4, which I quote in its entirety:
4. What is the smartest decision that millennials are making with money today?a. 11% of respondents answered
I agree with the 29% plurality that didn't think any of the above choices qualified as a "smartest decision." I found choice "d" - having fewer kids and waiting longer to have children to save money - to be the least smart choice of all. The reason - the timeless truth today's young need to find their way toward - is you become an adult by acting like one. That entails thinking about, planning and acting on your future, and accepting responsibility. Those who do so will find the financial means to their ends.
And as regards millennials "spending too much money" and "getting themselves into too much debt" (quotes taken from Question No. 3), for those and other clichés, I deeply sympathize with the younger generation. That is because the society in which they live does not honor them with the truth and is constantly funneling them with self-destructive messages. If you're a millennial and you agree with that, then you need to defend yourself by filtering what's coming at you through the pipelines and taking responsibility for finding the truth.
Please share your thoughts on this issue in our comments section. Meanwhile, below please find links to other advisor-related content on today's Seeking Alpha.
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- Vishal Khandelwal interviews Kenneth Jeffrey Marshall for insights on value investing .
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- For more content geared to FAs, visit the Financial Advisor Center .
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