Millennials, Get Off Your Assets To Take Charge Of Your Financial Future
I’m not just picking on Millennials. Well, maybe I am. We have all read about the financial plight of Millennials, who are not only drowning in student loan debt, but other loans and expenses as well. These loans and expenses include car payments, rents or mortgages, and credit card bills. As a Baby Boomer, who has “been there, done that,” I feel your pain; however, it is time for Millennials to focus on the road ahead and find ways to secure their financial futures.
Undoubtedly, the ability of Millennials to save and invest will be met by challenges. According to a study by the National Endowment for Financial Education, “Two-thirds of Millennials have at least one long-term debt (student loan, home mortgage, car loan) …” Even more shocking, the study found that “Nearly 30% of those [Millennials] with checking accounts had overdrawn their account in the prior 12 months… [and]… nearly 20 percent of those with a self-directed retirement account either took a loan or made a hardship withdrawal…”
The financial strain you feel today will become a real pain as you move into your golden years, which are expected to last longer than your Baby Boomer parents. Millennials must focus on both the immediate and the future. Baby Boomers like me constantly lecture about financial planning because we know what your future will look like; we’re living it and you may be headed for a rude awakening. We also have firsthand experience about the pitfalls of not planning. Let’s face it, we blew it. As I said before, Baby Boomers “have been there, done that,” and we even got the T-shirt.
Millennials Don’t Trust Wall Street
Why should they? As CNN put it, “Wall Street welcomed millennials to the world of investing by showing them the scariest financial crisis since the Great Depression.” This generation saw their parent’s financial futures devastated. Many parents lost their job, their home and their hope. Millennials also graduated from college, with debt, and often faced work options of being “underemployed.” It’s not just Millennials who distrust Wall Street. Capital One ShareBuilder’s “Financial Freedom Survey” found that “A majority (58 percent) of investors indicated that distrust of the markets and/or financial services industry is negatively impacting their confidence about investing.”
I spoke with Robert (Bob) Stammers, Director of Investor Engagement at CFA Institute. CFA Institute conducted a survey called, “From Trust To Loyalty.” The survey sought to gauge the trust within the investment community, garnering results from both the retail and institutional communities. Bob indicated that trust and transparency were big issues for Millennials and their survey results supported his comments.
“Millennials lack trust in financial institutions because they have let them down with the financial crisis. The recession, and the housing crisis they witnessed had devastating effects on many of their friends and family,” says Stammers.
I believe that many Millennials are ready to move forward, but are just not sure how to go about investing. They are the social generation and get their everyday advice from friends. This is fine for a recommendation for a restaurant, but I’m not comfortable with investing advice from peers who have little knowledge of financial markets.
Stammers went on to tell me that, Millennials do not want “business as usual.” He explained, “The key differentiators for this generation are around customization, personalization, and better alignment of interests, but transparency in all things is critical to form a resilient professional relationship with them.”
Business As Usual Will Fail
Financial advisors are going to have to change the way they attract, onboard, and keep this next generation of investors. Millennials are connected via their mobile devices. A Fidelity Investments survey indicated that “The majority of Millennials use mobile apps to conduct financial transactions such as: accessing checking/savings accounts (61 percent), managing credit cards (52 percent) and paying bills (49 percent). In contrast, far fewer Millennials actively check on their brokerage (14 percent) or retirement accounts (18 percent).” That is how Millennials are putting a “toe-in-the investment” world. The “toe” is clearly their “baby toe.” In the Fidelity Investments survey, only “9% [of Millennials] describe themselves as an investor…”
Millennials are becoming comfortable with the new “low touch” way to invest. The problem is that they don’t have much to invest yet. That is about to change. This generation of Millennials stands to inherit $30 trillion dollars from the Baby Boomer generation, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Millennials are connected via their mobile devices. I think that it is going to be hard for their family’s financial advisor to convince the digital-savvy Millennial investor, after the inheritance passes, that it’s time to use their phone to call that advisor and not to just use it to buy stock. I’m guessing that the financial world may be in for a shock.
I work with DriveWealth, a registered broker-dealer that offers a mobile investing app and allows the investor to purchase fractional shares. I think this option will make all the difference for Millennials who don’t have a significant amount of money to invest right now. Mobile investing will hopefully demystify the “magic” of Wall Street and give Millennials a way to control their own low-cost investing.
Investors must use common sense. “Slick and sexy” can be left to one’s fashion style you share on Instagram. “Invest in what you know and trust” should be an investment mantra for beginners. “Buy and hold” is also another good lesson, as well as “step away from the investing shows.” If the show or online source gives you a “hot tip,” it’s probably too late. The market already knows about it. By the way, when you do get the big inheritance, you will need professional assistance; not only to plan for your future, but also to receive ongoing investment advice.
The real message is to begin today, no matter how little you need to invest. As Michael Fitzgerald, Head of Corporate Strategy at DriveWealth points out; “You can either choose to drink a Starbucks latte, or invest $5.00 in Starbucks stock. That $5.00 weekly investment in Starbucks (buying fractional shares) over the past ten years would be worth over $8,500 today!”
The real message here is may be in the sage words of Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”