Sometimes referred to as the "Me Me Me" generation, millennials have become the largest living population in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau). Millennials are known for having heavy financial burdens, being the most racially diverse generation — and delaying marriage (Drake, 2014). What do their different views on marriage than previous generations mean for millennial couples, especially when faced with these financial challenges? Are these couples less committed? Do they trust less?
Millennials tend to believe that being financially stable is a requirement of marriage. This generation has indeed lived through turbulent times, experiencing unemployment, poverty, and the highest amount of student loans (Drake, 2014) — not to mention coming of age during the Great Recession.
Providing a stable financial environment for millennials may mean obtaining higher levels of education, including both undergraduate and graduate degrees, in order to pull in a higher income. With higher education levels, higher student loan debt tends to follow. However, higher education levels also mean the potential for greater earning power, leading to the ability to pay off those student loans. But this takes time, and it's one reason for delaying marriage.
Martin, Astone, and Peters (2014) predicted that millennials, when faced with a stable economic environment, would marry just as much as previous generations by the time they turn 40. This means eventually there will be married millennial clients to work with, but even then, your approach to working with millennial couples may be different for several reasons.
Structuring Comingled Money
First, how millennials structure financial commitments may deviate from previous generations. Typically, there has been a divide in professional opinion on whether couples should pool their resources or keep them separate. In other words, should couples have joint accounts or separate accounts? Millennials, married or not, may be more likely to keep their financial accounts separate or have a mix of joint and separate accounts. This movement towards separate accounts may be because partners feel they have a need to maintain some financial independence or to protect themselves from a partner's history of poor financial decision-making.
Regardless, separate accounts could open the door for financial infidelity and the hiding of assets and spending behaviors. Not to say financial infidelity is on the rise with millennials, but it is easier not to be open and communicative about an account, certain assets or problematic behavior when only one person's name is tied to it. As a result, foundational issues of trust within the couple's relationship may raise their ugly head.
For you, the financial advisor, helping clients see their whole financial picture together as a couple is important to the planning process. Of course, how couples decide the best way to structure their financial commitments will vary due to their own unique situations. It might not be a bad idea for you to have a relationship expert on speed dial when a referral needs to be made to help couples repair trust issues with each other around money.
There Are Always Trust Issues
Speaking of trust, trust within the advisor-client relationship can be a hurdle. The millennial generation is the least trusting of other people. In fact, only 19% of millennials said "most people can be trusted" (pewsocialtrends.org). As an advisor, this means you're likely going to have to do some things differently to help develop trust with the millennial couple.
Developing a trusting relationship between you and the client is already a very important element when working with your clients. But with millennials, it's critical. Developing trust begins with the very first meeting. Creating a warm environment, being genuine, and showing that you're caring and compassionate as well as truly interested in the clients are keys to developing the essential element of trust in the working alliance.
Although millennials sometimes get a bad rap for being self-centered or entitled, they are quite optimistic about their future (Drake, 2014). They doubt that there will be government benefits like Social Security waiting for them when they retire. But they do see that there is opportunity for them to gain the assets needed to live a comfortable retirement (pewsocialtrends.org; Collinson, 2014). They'll need your help to make sure they succeed. However, if you have been working with previous generations like Generation X or Boomers, you may need to be open-minded as to what the norm is for millennials. Intently listen to what is important to them and help them brainstorm solutions that will work best for them.
- Millennial couples, married or not, are looking for ways to be able to meet their future dreams, and make responsible financial choices now in order to do so.
- Some may comingle all of their money, others may not. Your job is to help them see their whole financial picture as a couple, not two individuals.
- Plan on investing more time and effort establishing and building trust with millennials, as they are less likely to trust you, as did older generations.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who is not affiliated with Hartford Funds. The information contained herein should not be construed as investment advice or a recommendation of any product or service nor should it be relied upon to, replace the advice of an investor's own professional legal, tax and financial advisors. Hartford Funds Distributors, LLC.
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