By A.J. Kim
From the social media obsession to cell-phone addictions, everyone criticizes “millennials” as being the lazy, entitled, and financially unmotivated generation. Many “older” people are often quick to point fingers at this group of individuals who were born between 1981 and 1996 for their flaws and imperfections, including their lack of investments. By classifying all “incompetent” individuals under age 37 as this distinguished generation, our society has neglected the most important fact: millennials reached their adulthood in the midst of the financial crisis along with the rising living costs and increase in student loans. Thus, instead of blaming this newest working class for their lack of investments, we should instead ask “what can our society do to encourage millennials to invest more?”
A recent report by FINRA surveyed 1,814 millennials in an effort to explore the myths surrounding the millennials’ trends of non-investments. Despite the popular beliefs that millennials are simply lazy or aloof about their long-term financial goals and retirement plans, millennials are hindered by the lack of financial education and investment knowledge. In addition to their large debts and insufficient income, 39% of the respondents cited their lack of knowledge as the primary barrier to investing. Parents or family members are the typical key factors that influence the millennials’ decision to invest; however, such valuable resources are not readily available to everyone due to the diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Furthermore, there are major investment disparities along geographic, gender and racial lines: (1) urban millennials are 50% more likely than rural millennials to invest; (2) male millennials are more confident in their investment decisions than female millennials; and (3) African-Americans and Hispanic millennials are 29% less likely to invest than White millennials.
Thus, financial education is paramount to all millennials despite their socio-economic backgrounds. With the over-all participation rate of 93%, employer-sponsored retirement accounts are the gateway to investments for many individuals with no prior investment experience or education. However, more efforts are needed as the employers merely offer these accounts as a part of their employment benefits to full-time employees without any basic investment guidance while completely neglecting their part-time employees. Furthermore, higher education institutions should incorporate financial education as a part of their mandatory curriculum, regardless of the students’ fields of study, to prepare individuals for real-world financial consequences.
We cannot foresee the future of millennial retirement and the investment trends of the next working class, “Generation Z.” However, the desperate need of financial education is apparent as these generations will make up larger cohorts of the population and financial markets in the near future.
For all my fellow millennial readers, check out FINRA’s page dedicated to us: http://www.finra.org/investors/millennials