The Millennial Question: finance trends through the generations

The Millennial Question: finance trends through the generations

I recently watched a video that suddenly made a lot of things about my life, and the lives of my generation – the Millennials – all make sense. It is a video that I believe everyone needs to watch. It was a fifteen-minute clip of Simon Sinek answering the “millennial question” on Inside Quest. If you feel that fifteen minutes is too long and a waste of your time, then you probably fall right into the category of people that he is talking about.

Sinek believes, and now so do I, that people born from the 80’s onwards have been “dealt a bad hand”. We are growing up in a rapidly changing world, and the combination of new parenting techniques, exponential technological advancement, and a consistently harsh and self-interested corporate world is proving to be detrimental to us.

One thing Sinek didn’t talk about, however – something that I feel to be equally problematic – is the Millennial’s relationship with money. We don’t really understand it.

75% of Millennials consider wealth to be an extremely important attribute – a much, much higher percentage than previous generations. And yet, nearly 9 out of 10 Millennials place an importance on work-life balance. Millennials have grown up being told that they are special and that they can have anything they want just by believing that they can have it and that they deserve it. Millennials all want a career that they are passionate about. 64% of them have said that they would take a 60% pay cut to do this. Combine this with the fact that with growing technology Millennials are becoming accustomed to instant gratification, and you have a frustrating outcome. Compared to previous generations, the work ethic of Millennials is poor. We all want to make a lot of money doing very little of something we love.

We can break this generation down further, as some have done, into the Millennials and Generation Z – the 90’s kids and younger. Generation Z grew up in a recession. They are proving to be much more cautious with money. In fact, they take much less risks in general. The number of teenagers who try alcohol before they are of age has dropped from 82% in 1991, to 66% in 2013. In that same time, the number of teenagers who don’t wear a seatbelt has dropped from 26% to 8%. Though this generation are more careful with their money, they have still fallen victim to the undesirable attributes earned from the use of technology and social media. In fact, this generation are even more comfortable in the virtual world than the Millennials. We are impatient, and we are an unusual mix of impersonal and yet dependent on staying connected with people. 30 billion Whatsapp messages are sent per day, and yet we are not as comfortable in face-to-face interactions.

On top off all of this, there seems to be an extremely limited understanding of banks. I spoke to a group of girls in their early twenties who said that they didn’t really have a clue what banks do. They just “keep my money safe”. One girl then said, “I just joined the bank that my parents were with.” The reality of banks, as outlined by a non-millennial, a fifty-year-old man, is that “their prime interest is no longer to keep peoples’ money safe. It is to make a profit for their shareholders. Banks are no longer trustworthy – they can go bankrupt just like any other corporation. Hence the government involvement to try and guarantee customers’ savings.” Cautious though they may be, Millennials and Generation Z don’t seem to be taking the time to understand who they are entrusting their money to.

I am not encouraging anyone to sit back and use the fact that millennials have been “dealt a bad hand” as an excuse. It is not too late to change our own attitudes towards adult life. Make your New Year’s resolution this year to be more patient. Take the time to educate yourself about your bank. Set up a separate savings account and put a portion of your income or your loan into it every month.

If you are a Millennial still searching for the perfect career, then this could give you some financial security. If you are Generation Z, then this could quell your embedded feelings of insecurity. When your patience improves you may find that your work ethic increases. As the saying goes, “Good things take time.” Millennials, help each other, but most importantly, help yourselves.


Watch Simon Sinek here