While much has been made of *Millennials and what they will or will not become, this generation already has attributes that will make them very successful long term investors.
As someone who spends hours understanding individual clients, what I have seen through my practice is completely at odds with all the bad press Millennials get. In fact, they are benefitting from a confluence of factors that is already making them the most empowered investing generation in history:
1. Healthy Cynicism
They’ve already lived through one of the worst stock market crashes and housing busts in history. They saw their parents lose money and/or homes. They heard their parents wonder aloud why their financial advisor disappeared or had a break down during the GFC.
They are not cynical about investing per se, but they are cynical toward a P.T. Barnum-like finance industry bloated with fees and arrogance. Millennials, correctly, see the flaws in the system and the mistakes their parents made. They are primed for innovations like robo-advising; this and other Fintech innovation already help slash investment fees that boost long term returns.
2. Teachers Are Everywhere
Blooming alongside Fintech is Crowd Sourced Learning. Millennials do not see classroom education from PhDs as far superior to other more “guerilla” educational options where ongoing learning is just a part of life. As such they seek information through many channels, and input from varied sources including coaches. This allows them to soberly balance out the often-extreme opinion emanating from an industry rife with paid-to-promote talking heads. They are much more comfortable calling BS on specious or fear mongering advice.
3. Tech Empowered
Millennials are not afraid of online trading platforms, even as beginners, and thrilled to skip over human contact altogether unless that person adds value. They are more than happy and willing to embrace these platforms for their efficiency and cost effectiveness, and pay more for ‘good tech’ such as easy to use interfaces compared to just “cheap” tech. Millennials see technology as a way to Keep It Simple, transparent and low cost – three of my cardinal rules of long term investing.
4. Less Gender Bias
Both men and women have traditionally held biases toward women in finance. On the one hand women have been seen as more trustworthy, but on the other as less skillful investors. Nothing on earth supports this statistically speaking – quite the opposite in fact. But facts do not matter to people with gender bias.
While not gender blind, Millennials have fewer gender-related hang ups compared to Gen X and Baby Boomers. They have better educated mothers and graduated university with classes that were at least 50% female. They already communicate better with their spouses around money, and Millennial men are benefitting from more exposure to a female investing approach ie less trading and a greater adherence to long term investing strategies.
5. Mental Agility
Another cardinal investing rule is to not get “stuck” believing that one way of investing is somehow bullet proof forever. Money is global and ever more mobile, which means savvy Millennials are not just shoving all their money mindlessly into a 401k or relying on the pension they were promised. Rather they hedge their bets, looking into overseas property and seeking opportunities further afield to support their vision of the future. They also have zero fear in changing advisors, banks, platforms, or passports(!) if they are underserved.
6. Less Dependency
You can almost see financial dependency in the eyes of an older generation of women, who grew up with Mattel's Barbie, as they competitively post and stare at Facebook. Your female Millennial wants children and a family, but they will do just about anything to avoid falling into the financial dependency trap of previous generations. Millennial women know they have choices and a shot at being truly financially independent of a spouse and/or ultimately an employer. As such, they are finding ways to maximize those choices and position themselves for financial freedom.
It’s true that Millennials face some uphill battles, particularly in terms of college debt. But I believe Millennials living below their means and learning how to invest efficiently and early, will be the most confident, independent and strategic group of investors the world has ever seen. *Millennials refer to a population demographic born around 1977 – 1997
Andrea Kennedy is a Singapore-based Counselor in Financial Psychology, Certified Financial Planner and Author of Own Your Financial Freedom.