What do you think of when you think of Millennials? The media loves to paint Millennials as “adventurous”, “risk takers,” and “thrill seekers.” But, surprisingly, when it comes to financial planning for Millennials, their behavior is anything but risky.
In fact, there is evidence that, while emotions and biases play a large part in Millennials’ investment decisions, fear leads the list of behavioral influences.
We Millennials grew up during the Internet crash and have witnessed one of the most turbulent market cycles in recent U.S. history. With the financial crisis of 2008, and the housing bust leading to a recession, many of us have watched our parents struggle with financial security and worry about whether they’ll ever be able to retire. Many recent grads have experienced unemployment as a result of the crisis, and many are burdened with significant student loan debt. Good times? Not.
These experiences during their impressionable years have led many Millennials to take an emotionally driven approach to Financial Planning for Millennials and to adopt conservative money habits that analysts have compared to the investment behavior of young adults during the Great Depression.
They tend to be wary of investing in equities, for instance, resorting to a behavioral bias that favors peer narratives and unscientific anecdotes – such as stories of retirement-age people whose nest eggs were destroyed by the financial crisis – over careful data analysis.
In May 2013, Wells Fargo released the results of a study surveying more than 1,400 Millennials, that found that Millennials view the stock market, and most investments, as a risk not worth taking. More than half of Millennials are “not very confident” or “not at all confident” about the stock market and many of the Millennials who do consider investing in stocks see the market as a short-term investment. The survey also found that Millennials’ primary concerns were student loan debt and paying their monthly bills.
In fact, Millennials have not only taken on more student loan debt than any previous generation but they continue to struggle in a challenging job market. With many Millennials remaining unemployed or underemployed, and with bills and debt as their top priorities, they have very little disposable income for investing. Many, according to a Pew Research poll released in October 2013, did not even begin thinking about saving or establishing a 401(k) until about five years into their careers.
Additionally, a UBS Wealth Management survey report featured on Bankrate.com found that, more 39% of the Millennials surveyed – more than any other age group – said that cash is their preferred way to invest money that they don’t need for at least ten years. That’s three times the number who chose to invest in the stock market, despite the fact that the S&P 500 has gained 17% over the past year while most cash investment yields remain below 1%.
The problem with short-term stock investment approaches and dipping in and out of the stock market is that it can work against investors, because short-term investments may be subject to a higher rate of volatility. Instead of looking at the long-term data, which shows that stocks typically outperform other more conservative asset classes over the long run, those young investors are fearful of the short-range volatility, clouding data about the positive potential of long-term investing.
That reluctance to get into the market can be problematic for long-term portfolio growth because, without the returns from stocks, it can be difficult to reach savings and retirement goals.
With the crash of the big banks and the negative publicity surrounding Wall Street financial firms, Millennials became a generation that looked at financial professionals with mistrust. Instead, they rely more heavily on the Internet, social media, and personal networks for financial advice. Their experience with market volatility and lack of job security has had a significant impact on their attitudes and behaviors toward investing. With very little disposable income after bills and debt payment, Millennials want to feel a sense of security with their investments.
When it comes to working with a financial professional, ‘old school’, traditional banking services are of no interest to them. Bigger is not better in their minds; a smaller, more independent financial planning firm may be able to offer a more hands-on and collaborative approach to investing that Millennials feel more comfortable with.
It’s important to Millennials that they find someone they can trust and who can relate to their concerns and be open to new ideas and methods of investing. Sherman Wealth Management understands that being a part of the investing process is a must in financial planning for Millennials. We fill a role for clients who can no longer relate to, or trust, the large financial institutions that once held a stronghold in the marketplace. The professionals at Sherman Wealth Management provide a personalized plan for investing and help our clients navigate through the difficulty of prioritizing financial obligations.
Remember how it was the overconfidence of the large financial firms and irresponsible investors that brought us the financial crisis in the first place? That Millennial reluctance to let history blindly repeat itself may turn out to be a pretty good thing after all!