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How millennials listen to financial advice

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I was at a financial journalist workshop in New York last week and discovered many interesting facts, not the least of which is that everything you always feared about reporters is true — but I digress.

Actually, I don’t.

If there’s one common thread among correspondents, it’s that they never stop asking questions. Sometimes, though, they’re not satisfied with the truth behind the answers.

Such was my case at this workshop.

A panel of millennial bloggers had just finished retelling their respective stories of traveling from innocent naïfs to much-in-demand generational chroniclers and — this is the important part — advisors.

They aren’t professional financial advisors, they’re reporters, but they write about financial topics.

And many millennials read their posts. And, presumably, many millennials heed their counsel.

What struck me most: they genuinely want to help their generation.

When the Q&A came, I had to ask the obvious question. What was that question? Before I go there, you need to know where I had been.

I had just come from another conference where I had a chance to ask a question to a panel of happy retirees.

They mentioned they wished they knew what they know now when they were younger. That turned into a nice story (see, “7 Tips Present Day Retirees Wished They Knew When They Were 24,”, October 13, 2015).

I was sitting on a great piece of link-bait (it even had an odd number in the headline!) that represented the kind of advice any millennial would want.

So I asked the panel to answer my question honestly: “If a group of retirees revealed the secret to a comfortable retirement, would millennials listen to them, or do millennials only listen to other millennials? Who will millennials listen to?

The panel paused, glanced knowingly at each other, then looked at me.

“Old man,” they began — they didn’t say it out loud, but their eyes shouted it.

What they did say out loud was this: “Warren Buffett,…” said the first panelist. “and maybe Lebron James…” said the second. “Yeah, Lebron James,” agreed the first.

The point was, as the panelists said, millennials would give these experienced retirees about as much credibility with millennials as they would their grandparents.

OK, this surprised me.

I thought everyone listened to their grandparents. It was their parents they had problems with.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s a generation thing.

This panel of millennials who write on financial topics for other millennials offers a major revelation to financial professionals. No matter how much experience we have, no matter how right we are, we’ll never get through to millennials.

The best folks, other than celebrities, to deliver important messages to millennials are their peers.

This has a bearing not just for financial professionals, but for plan sponsors, too. Perhaps the reason why employee education has produced less than satisfying results is because it’s been written by the wrong generation.

Just because you have the answers doesn’t mean you have an audience.

See also:

IRI: Many millennials would pick Oprah for financial advice

5 things millenials want from benefits

30 under 30: Meet the millennials who are transforming the insurance industry