Millennials: Who Are They?

Key Takeaways

  • Today’s young adults are more cynical about the American Dream than are older generations.
  • Student debt, the high cost of living and a tepid job market are forcing millennials to delay the start of living independently, owning a home and saving for retirement.
  • Millennials have little confidence in the stock market, Social Security, conventional news media and the need for financial advisors—especially those charging AUM fees.
  • Don’t write them off; they’ll be inheriting over $30 trillion, and most don’t have financial advisors. Make sure your “webutation” is up to snuff.

*** See related post: The Great Millennial Recession

If you talk with children or other millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000), you realize they don’t share our version of the American Dream—home ownership for everyone, wonderful stock markets, Social Security in retirement, news media with integrity, and a world without terror threats and world wars.

Millennials don’t believe much of what they see in the paper or on TV news. They have shorter-term planning horizons. They like exit plans instead of retirement plans. They’re very tech savvy, so they’d rather check us out online and scrutinize our “webutations” than meet us in person. They believe in paying monthly retainers, not an AUM fee.

Millennial dangers, opportunities and strengths for advisors

Dangers. First, a lot of millennials are living with parents because they have a ton of college debt and can’t afford to live on their own and start families as early in life as older generations could. Also, they’re afraid of debt. As I mentioned in an earlier post they keep a disproportionate amount of money in cash. They’re not participating in the markets—they’re not just afraid of debt, but afraid of what’s going on in the stock market. Finally, millennials aren’t interested in working with advisors like you and me. Only about one in five (22%) are even using an advisor.

Opportunities? They are digital natives, so you can handle a lot more client service online—which is much faster and more economical than paper—with the younger generation. They love convenience and aggregation. Once you gain their trust, they’ll make you their point person rather than going out separately to a CPA, an attorney and an insurance pro for questions about taxes, legal issues and risk protection. Finally, they’ll be inheriting $30 trillion over the next three decades. There’s a huge need to make sure that tremendous amount of wealth is put to good use.

Strengths. They’re well-informed and do their homework online before making important decisions. They’re also better savers than older generations because they don’t believe Social Security or other safety nets will be there.


If nothing else, millennials want convenience. They want all their financial needs handled in one place—the more they can do online from the convenience of their home or office devices, the better. As mentioned before, they want one person/institution to answer all their money questions, rather than going to a CPA for a tax answers, an attorney for legal answers and then an insurance agent for risk protection. Finally, they want to pay a predictable monthly retainer, not a variable fee based on AUM.

Food for thought. Gary

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