If you’re a regular reader of the Connect Blog, you might remember our blog post last year entitled, Millennials May be Leading the Next Investment Revolution, where we shared in depth about the millennial generation leading a shift away from traditional investment methods to a more flexible approach. That still holds true, but, as a millennial myself, I want to talk more about exactly why millennials shy away from the investment portfolio blueprint their parents and grandparents established. I believe it’s because, for them, money isn’t just about money.
For starters, the millennial generation doesn’t like to commit to things they don’t understand or trust, especially when it comes to their money. Perhaps their hesitance to invest comes from the climate in which they grew up. A 2009 study by finance professors Ulrike Malmandier and Stefan Nagel found that those exposed to low stock market returns are much less likely to take financial riski. In other words, the financial environment that you are surrounded by directly affects your investment behaviour. Unlike the baby boomers, millennials saw the impact of things like the Dot Com Bubble and the Global Financial Crisis within their formative years. Fresh out of university, I joined a multinational bank at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. Working in client communications was a critical point in my career, it became apparent to me that trust is not only crucial, but is actually the very essence of the existence of the banking system to begin with. Roth, in his paper The Effects of the Financial Crisis on Systemic Trust, said it well, “The collapse of Lehmann Brothers in September 2008 had an enormous impact on the financial markets and the global economy by undermining trust – trust in counterparties among banks and trust in the overall stability of the financial system, but also citizens’ trust in their institutions – systemic trust – and the validity of the underlying principles” ii. Trust, once lost is very hard to regain.
Millennials, as a generation, also care more about experiences than possessions. Research carried out by psychology professor Thomas Gilovich at Cornell University has shown that people derive more pleasure from experiential purchases rather than material possessionsiii. Millennials are acutely aware of this. Where their parents followed a set formula of marriage, mortgage and children, millennials often break this mould, prioritising travel over real estate and job security, even if it means living under their parents’ roofs well into their thirties.
They are also the generation calling for social and environmental change. Forbes reported in late 2018 about the emergence of Impact Investing iv. Millennials are by far the most engaged in this trend, focused on investing only in socially responsible, ethical businesses. Protecting the environment and furthering humanitarian causes are more important than ever. The younger generation want to know where their money is going and whether it’s making an impact.
It’s clear that, for millennials, investing is more complex than just spending money to make money. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be investing, or that they don’t want to. There are now tools available that put millennials more in charge of their investment choices than ever before. Robo-advisory technology is an adaptable solution that takes your own financial goals and risk tolerance into account. Accurate, reliable investment advice is available at the click of a button, based on well-developed investment methodology.
As for trust, transparency is paramount to rebuilding it. This means being really clear and upfront about the fees — giving the millennials everything they need to make an informed decision in a font they can read and in a language they can understand — with no fine print.
The flexibility of robo-advisory technology means that millennials can easily make changes and gain investment advice on the go, even when travelling. And whilst they may not live a lifestyle that is focused on money, a steady investment with solid returns can actually offer them the freedom to create the experiences they want to have, or further the causes they care about. It can also give them the financial security they may not have believed was possible. In a nutshell, robo-advisory solutions offer millennials the ability to manage their money on their own terms. That’s the key to the financial revolution.
i Malmandier, U. & Nagel, S. Depression Babies: Do Macroeconomic Experiences Affect Risk-Taking? National Bureau of Economic Studies. (March 2009) https://www.nber.org/papers/w14813
ii Roth, F. The Effect of the Financial Crisis on Systemic Trust: CEPS Working Document No. 316. (July 2009)
iii Gilovich, T. A wonderful life: experiential consumption and the pursuit of happiness. Cornell University, Science Direct. (20/08/2014) https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5394dfa6e4b0d7fc44700a04/t/547d589ee4b04b0980670fee/1417500830665/Gilovich+Kumar+Jampol+%28in+press%29+A+Wonderful+Life+JCP.pdf
iv Dallmann, JP. Impact Investing, Just A Trend Or The Best Strategy To Help Save Our World? Forbes. (31/12/2018) https://www.forbes.com/sites/jpdallmann/2018/12/31/impact-investing-just-a-trend-or-the-best-strategy-to-help-save-our-world/#ab1085f75d11