What Do Millennials Care About?


Criticism of the Millennial generation has been so pervasive over the past decade that the phrase “much-maligned’’ seems to precede the word “Millennials’’ in most references.

One of the more popular critiques of those Americans born between 1980 and 2000 is that they just don’t care about anything, at least not the way they should (according to those Americans born in the Gen X or Baby Boomer generation).

But the truth is that people from different generations are, almost by design, going to have different stressors and issues which prompt them to act. Age changes priorities, and the biggest difference between people from different generations is that they are not the same age.

Spectrem’s latest study of the age difference between investors shows how generational segmentation provides unique responses in research on investment attitudes and behaviors. Millennials and Gen X Investors: Attracting the Next Generations of Wealth explains how the two youngest generations of investors differ from each other and from those investors who came before them, and includes details on the personal and national concerns each generation has which influence investment decisions.

“While Millennials catch so much criticism, mostly from Baby Boomers, they are in fact little different than those Boomers were when they were in their 20s and 30s,’’ said Spectrem president George H. Walper Jr. “Growing up as they did with the internet and social media, Millennials have a different environmental background than the Boomers and Gen X investors, but in reality they are just like the investors before them, growing in their occupations and responding to the financial pressures of young adulthood.” 

Personal concerns are the matters which can directly influence how an investor perceives their portfolio and their investable assets. As such, they are the matters which advisors need to address when discussing investment plans with investors, and when it comes to Millennials, they are likely to have a different set of personal concerns than do older investors.

Millennials, for example, are at that stage where financing the education of their children is paramount. Fifty-three percent of Millennial’s list that as one of their concerns, and advisors can certainly play a role in diminishing that concern by assisting investors in setting up accounts that will generate the necessary funds to pay for college when the children reach the appropriate age.

Millennials are also likely the product of Baby Boomer parents, and those Boomers are now in their 60s and 70s. That creates another pressure for Millennials, who will someday be required to pay for extended care for their parents, who are likely to live for many more years thanks to improved health standards but who are still likely to need assistance in their elder years. Fifty percent of Millennials (and 49 percent of Gen Xers) consider the responsibility for aging parents as a significant concern.

In Spectrem’s study on investor-advisor relationships, 67 percent of Millennial Millionaires with a net worth between $1 million and $5 million expect advisors to assist with Elder Care planning and financing. Advisors know the earlier such planning takes place, the better from an economic standpoint, and advisors should discuss such issues with their Millennial clients before the funds are needed.

There are other personal matters that concern Gen Xers more than Millennials, and the also produce greater concern again from Baby Boomers, such as personal health and the health of a spouse.

It is in national issues where Millennials express less concern than older investors. While 66 percent of Millennials express concern over the nation’s current political environment, that is well below the 77 percent of World War II investors who have that concern. Likewise, while 54 percent of Millennials express concern over government gridlock, 80 percent of WW II investors and 74 percent of Baby Boomers worry about such matters.

But Millennials will someday be one of the older generations (the next generation, those born in the 21st century, already have some members who are 17 years old). Concerns will change over time, and advisors need to be wary of when Millennials reach that point where their concerns extend beyond personal matters.


Top Takeaways for Advisors

Millennials are adults, with adult concerns, and many if not all of those concerns are financial. While Millennials are more reluctant to involve advisors in their affairs, perhaps because they do not believe their asset level requires it, there are a great many opportunities for advisors to begin developing the next generation of clients. Social media posts, blogs and online advertising can reach an audience which may not be reading newsletters or newspapers these days.


Since Millennials are predominantly concerned with financing their children’s education, advisors can become more beneficial to Millennials by staying current on the college loan and financing matters that surround college tuition payments. Being conversant about programs like 529 plans can be a way to build trust in young investors, who will move beyond their concerns over educational funding once that matter is addressed, and be looking for ways to increase their portfolio through investment options. 



©2017 Spectrem Group