A survey by LIMRA found that less than half of millennials identify with that label, compared to almost two-thirds of Gen X and boomer respondents who connected with their respective identifiers.
In a survey released this year, just 44% of millennials said they think the term describes them well.
Part of why so few millennials connect with that label, according to Cecilia Shiner, assistant research director at LIMRA, is that it’s a fairly new name.
“This generation has had a variety of labels: echo boomers, boomerang generation, Gen Y,” she told ThinkAdvisor on Monday. “It’s so new, and it takes time for these labels to sink in. Baby boomers weren’t called baby boomers since the beginning,” she pointed out.
Millennials get a bit of a bad rap, too. “We do see an extended young adulthood with millennials,” Shiner acknowledged. “I think that has had an effect on how they’re viewed, as well as the perceived entitlement issue.”
Shiner said the survey found millennial respondents agreed that their generation was entitled.
“I think as this group ages, those kinds of negative associations will diminish,” Shiner said,
Women were less likely than men to agree with positive representations of their generation, Shiner said. Male millennials were much more likely than women to say their generation was optimistic, cooperative and realistic.
Smaller but still significant gaps exist between men and women who say millennials are smart, responsible, hard-working and self-reliant.
Less than a quarter of women agreed these qualities described their generation “very well,” compared with between 30% and 40% of men.
LIMRA defined millennials in the study as those born between 1982 and 1999, but different researchers use different dates to define the generation. The Census Bureau defines millennials as those born between 1982 and 2000, while Pew Research Center counts anyone born after 1980 among millennials.
“We broadly apply these terms as a way of grouping people and because the life stages tend to match up for the most part,” Shiner said, but two people, both millennials, may be in vastly different stages of their lives.
She recommended advisors use the term “millennial” judiciously and focus more on a client or prospect’s life stage by talking about “your peers” or people in similar situations.
“I think that approach is better, even beyond [discomfort with] the term ‘millennial,’ because the millennial generation also has a divide,” Shiner said, due to “the number of years that keep dripping into the millennial definition. You have the oldest millennials, who are married with children and mortgages, [and] the younger counterparts who are in college, or sometimes, depending on the definition, just entering college. Those are huge life-stage gaps.”
For advisors, she said, “really talking to clients about not only people their age, but people in their life stage and those kinds of elements, will strengthen the recommendations they’re able to give.”
— Read Thinking Millennial: How to Woo the Largest Generation on ThinkAdvisor.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Cecilia Shiner’s last name.