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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Millennials Growing Out of Financial Fears

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Multiple studies have found millennials, the generation born after 1980, tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to investing. A March study by the FINRA Foundation found just 25% of millennials consider themselves risk takers, while a survey from MFS in February called those “recession babies” a “lost generation of investors.”

However, a report released Thursday by financial research firm Hearts & Wallets shows those recession babies may have finally grown out of the fears their early experience with financial crisis left them with. More than half of investors in their late 20s and 30s say they worry more about missing investment opportunities than losing money in the markets, the report found.

Hearts and Wallets surveyed 5,500 U.S. households for the Investor Mindset report. It found 53% of people between age 28 and 39 feel missing out on gains is a bigger worry than losing money in the short term. That’s in increase of 16% from 2012.

Their younger counterparts, those born between 1987 and 1993, agreed, with 49% saying they would rather lose money than miss out on gains.

“Millennials are going through a dramatic shift as they see the impact of the recent bull market and how their strategy of holding cash is costing them,” Chris Brown, Hearts & Wallets partner and co-founder, said in a statement. “The good news is there’s plenty of time to build a strong investing and savings plan that works for their individual needs.”

The report found investors overall are more risk tolerant than they were last year, with 27% of all respondents saying they were more comfortable with volatility. Retirees were the least comfortable, followed by the youngest workers, 25% of whom said they were comfortable with volatility.

The group that was most comfortable with volatility also reported the biggest increase in confidence. Over a third of respondents in their 40s and early 50s said they were willing to accept more volatility for a higher return, up 10 points to 34%. Those between ages 28 and 39 reported an eight-point increase to 31%.

However, when asked about their financial goals, respondents indicated the hard lessons of the financial crisis were not entirely forgotten. Investors of all ages reported their biggest financial goal was to build an emergency cash reserve. The second biggest goal was to work less as they get older, but stopping work entirely was a “distant third,” according to the report.

The economy, health care and Social Security led investor concerns, and just 13% of respondents said they felt confident about their financial future, down from 19% in 2013.

One thing investors continue to struggle with is the abundance of financial information. The report found information overload was a common challenge and left over half of respondents feeling confused. Although most respondents agreed their employers were not responsible for their retirement, almost half said they would be receptive to using employer-provided resources to plan for retirement.

“Financial services firms have a great opportunity to shape the financial future of investors, especially millennials,” Laura Varas, Hearts & Wallets partner and co-founder, said in a statement. “Saving and retirement plan participation is trending up, driven by younger investors. Firms can continue to improve programs at work, add options and articulate how options compare outside work.”

Improving retirement communications and resources at work might be particularly helpful for millennial and younger employees, as a study released Tuesday by TIAA-CREF found that Gen Y investors tend to use multiple sources for financial information. Gen Y is more than twice as likely as the general population to include their parents’ advice in financial decisions, but they also pull in advice from spouses and partners (37%), trusted adults (31%) and extended family members (22%).

“Gen Y gives new meaning to the term connected,” Kathie Andrade, executive vice president and head of Individual Advisory Services at TIAA-CREF, said in a statement. “It’s important for them to access financial advice via multiple platforms. While this may present a challenge for financial advisors, plan sponsors and employers, it also offers multiple opportunities for them to engage with Gen Y and speak their language when it comes to financial topics.”

TIAA-CREF surveyed 1,000 adults for its annual Gen Y Advice Matters Survey. The report found that as they build wide personal networks for financial information, young investors are most interested in face-to-face interactions. However, the report found that while over half of millennials prefer speaking in person about financial issues, they are interested in online tools and calculators as a source of information (74%), as well as seminars (68%) and webinars (67%).

Check out Financial Pros Just Don’t Get Millennials: Study on ThinkAdvisor.


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