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What Do Millennials Really Want?

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It seems like you can’t read a magazine, news article or blog without discussion around “millennials.”

(Related: Here’s How Financially Naive Millennial Parents Are)

Well, this article is no different, but what is different is I don’t pretend to have all the answers. If there’s one thing I do know, it’s that each of the millennials is unique. Most millennials I know act nothing like the reports I’ve read.

Most descriptions of millennials paint them as:

  • Young and inexperienced

  • Only interested in themselves

  • Able to only communicate through a device. (Hello texting!)

  • Not interested in finances. (They rely on their parents.)

But, in my opinion, that’s just, well, incorrect. We should not stereotype millennials. There’s a growing number of millennials (53.5 million!) who are on an established path into adulthood and making smart decisions when it comes to their careers and financial future. Let’s go to the source: Elliott and Capris – a couple of millennials working in corporate America.

What were your top priorities after graduating from college?

  • Elliott: “I wanted to make sure I started my job well, established a budget that worked for me and bought a new car. I was excited to buy a car independently after getting some pointers from my dad. I even drove Uber for a few weeks, just to spend more time in it!”

  • Capris: “I knew I wanted to buy a new car and, enjoy the last free moments of my “nonadult” life, get ready for starting a new job and establish a budget.”

Takeaway? These are thoughtful adults who want to do the “right thing.” We need to meet these consumers where they are (e.g., online) and offer financial education tips to get them started. These folks are willing to try new things and experiment (like driving Uber!).

You both started working for a large company right away. What were your thoughts when reviewing your employee benefits?

  • Capris: “Oh man, I have NO idea what any of this means!”

  • Elliott: “Wow, this is really confusing.”

Takeaway? After discussing it further, both relied on others and resources to help make sense of the situation.

People (Photo: Allison Bell/TA)

(Photo: Allison Bell/TA)

They both wanted to make the right choice(s), but knew they didn’t have the expertise. In addition to “Googling” for tips, they turned to others like their managers, parents and co-workers for advice.

When it’s payday, what do you do?

They indicated, “celebrate” or “silently cry tears of joy!” Then they both got down to business — paying bills, saving for retirement, putting money into savings and not carrying a credit card balance. Then they considered the occasional happy hour, and, oh, wedding planning for Elliott.

Takeaway? They’re a stark contrast to how many news reports portray them. They’re savers and mindful with their money. When asked what does it take for them to act on big-ticket purchases? They need to see the benefit — lower interest rates, money back – and have done their research.

Alright, you both bought disability insurance. Why?

They both agreed that working for a financial services company helped raise their awareness. For Elliott, he realized “I’m not invincible and I want to be independent. If something happened to me, I didn’t want to burden my parents or my fiancée.” For Capris, “It just made sense. What resonated were the testimonials I heard mndash; how having disability insurance helped or how not having it caused serious problems. It was powerful stuff.”

Takeaway? Education and awareness make all the difference. What can we do to provide ‘no-pressure’ advice that encourages dialogue, investigation and questions?

Any other words of wisdom for advisors wanting to work with millennials who aren’t sure where to start?

  • Elliott: “Give us more than just financial advice. If the advisor provided incentives for taking financial wellness steps, I’d be more inclined to meet.”

  • Capris: “Begin working with us as soon as possible – when we’re starting a new job or right before college graduation. For me, there were a ton of things I didn’t understand about basic personal finance; having someone there to walk you through it is helpful. Just don’t be too salesy.” Don’t talk product, talk solutions.

Takeaway? Educate. Be where they are. Offer help and not expect a sale. Building a rapport now could help nurture a relationship that grows over time.

So, there you have it – insights from two millennials who are making their way in the sometimes-confusing world of personal finance and adulthood. They’re probably a lot like your younger clients. How could you change your conversations with them to better address their needs?

—-Read These Millennial Advisors Are Killing It With Younger Clients on ThinkAdvisor.

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