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Millennials disciplined, risk-averse with finances

They recognize they need financial advice, but unsure where to find it

Millennials disciplined, risk-averse with finances

It’s not just beards, butchers, and bicycles that Generation Y—or “millennials”—are bringing back. The youngest adults in America, aged 18-29, are also showing signs that they’re old souls in the way they manage their money.

This finding was uncovered through the 2014 Planning and Progress Study, an annual research project commissioned by Northwestern Mutual that explores Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward finances and planning.

According to the research, millennials recognize the importance of saving and investing and tend to be more proactive about planning than their older counterparts.

The study surfaced a range of distinct attitudes and behaviors towards money among millennials, notably:

  • They’re not swinging for the fences—Only 14% say that when it comes to saving and investing, they are aiming high and pursuing as much growth as possible
  • They’re willing to be patient—30% favor “slow and steady” as their financial planning approach while another 30% would prefer to be more cautious but feel they have a lot of catching up to do
  • They’re the most disciplined generation since their grandparents—In fact, they’re even more disciplined than their grandparents. Even though they’re just starting out, 62% say they are “highly disciplined” or “disciplined” financial planners, as compared to 54% for adults aged 60-plus.
  • They’re humble—Despite their focus on planning, 68% believe there is room for improvement in how they manage their money

“While not quite putting money in the mattress, Gen Y definitely takes a more retro approach to how they handle their finances,” says Greg Oberland, Northwestern Mutual executive vice president. “I’m guessing they’re making a lot of grandparents very proud.”

Millennials want help but don’t know where to turn for it. Though they may be ahead of the curve in making financial planning a priority, the large majority of millennials recognize they can do even better.

As noted above, though more than two thirds (68%) say there is room for improvement, the millennial generation is most likely to say they’re uncertain where to find help (28%). Only one in eight 18-29 year olds (13%) have a financial advisor.

“Many twentysomethings have fairly straightforward finances at this stage in their lives, so it makes sense that only a small percentage work with advisors,” says Oberland. “But clearly, the appetite and attitudes make for great opportunity. For advisors, the message is clear—if they can meet in kind the interest, discipline, and humility of millennials, they may very well have relationships for a lifetime.”

John Ginovsky

John Ginovsky is a contributing editor of Banking Exchange and editor of the publication’s Tech Exchange e-newsletter. For more than two decades he’s written about the commercial banking industry, specializing in its technological side and how it relates to the actual business of banking. In addition to his weekly blogs—"Making Sense of It All"—he contributes fresh, original stories to each Tech Exchange issue based on personal interviews or exclusive contributed pieces. He previously was senior editor for Community Banker magazine (which merged into ABA Banking Journal) and for ABA Banking Journal and was managing editor and staff reporter for ABA’s Bankers News. Email him at [email protected].

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