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CPBJ Extra Blog

Millennials quietly demanding investment attention

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If the perception of the millennial generation is as a bunch of easy-going slackers with smartphones, then the investment world might want to form its own opinion.

In an insightful article posted on LinkedIn this week, Elliot Weissbluth, CEO of HighTower Advisors in Chicago, tells the investment world it better take notice of millenials (those born between 1985 and 2000) before dismissing them, saying they have “enormous influence” over the financial services world.

“The Millennials’ eyes are wide open, watchful and alert, and for a very good reason — they know the generations preceding them were sold a bill of goods,” Weissbluth writes.

It’s more than just sound logic and a careful eye on trends — it’s history repeating itself. The generation of Americans that watched their parents, families and friends lose everything in the Great Depression later fueled American prosperity. They then gave birth to the baby boomers, who helped get the country out of the hiccup of the late 1970s.

Then somewhere in the subsequent generations, we took more risks and cut the webbing of just about every financial safety net we had. The millenials barely had time to process high school before they were learning all about what a 401(k) is, why they couldn’t have their Sweet 16 party, why they were going to state school instead of an Ivy League institution or why they had to move to a new town so their parents had a better shot at getting a job. In the most extreme cases, they found out what it was like to move and live with an extended family, or not even live in a house at all.

And when millenials started graduating from college in the mid-2000s, they found the stingiest job market in years. This generation already has been beaten down. Millenials get saddled with the stereotype of having the air of entitlement, but many of them had that stereotype stripped away in real-life experiences.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Joe Besecker, chairman, president and CEO of Emerald Advisers in Manheim Township. He told me the college interns he’s brought on in the last few years completely blow the millennial stereotypes out of the water, because they know exactly how hard it’s going to be to get a job when they’re done with their internships and how much they may have watched their parents struggle. So they work harder than the interns he had previously.

Coincidentally, the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities on Wednesday launched a new Facebook community page, “PA Investor Education,” featuring information about the department’s investor education programs, public events and publications, links to investment news and more.

“The Corbett Administration recognizes the power of social media to connect people to information they need and can use,” Glenn E. Moyer, secretary of Banking and Securities, said in a news release.

While nowhere in the release does it mention millenials specifically, look at the profile of the average person who uses Facebook, according to Pew Research — adults 18 to 29. Hello, millennials!

In related news, I just Googled “wealth management central pennsylvania” and randomly picked five midstate firms, some of which are very well known. A quick audit showed not one of them had a Facebook or Twitter page. But hey, at least they all had email addresses -- well, some of them did.

Financial experts know better than to dismiss any group, but it sounds as if they should make it a point to pay special attention to this group of new investors since Weissbluth notes they’re already “saving more early and more often than their parents,” and another 10 years of millennials haven’t even graduated college yet.

This generation could be the big money makers of the next 50 years, and they’re starting now, with or without the financial services industry. So far, it seems like “without.”

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