Working with Millennials

by Ashlee Veneman

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I came across a very interesting meme the other day. A user posted on an internet site that when her parents were her age, they had a mortgage and two kids. However, at the ripe age of 27, she orders food from an online app for delivery to her one bedroom apartment, not even having to interact with the world. Of course, I chuckled – mostly because there is honesty behind the humor.

Millennials are referred to as being everything from entitled and lazy to altruistic and over-educated. It’s really only been in the last five years, since climbing out of a rocky point in our global economic history, that our group has truly been put under a microscope and analyzed. We are viewed not only as the next reckoning force in the labor market, but also as a completely unique marketing demographic. Hence, perhaps that is why we’re given a bad rap, yet simultaneously called the generation that will irrevocably change the world.

I was recently consoling a new client a few months shy of her 28th birthday. As she stared blankly ahead, said she had received an invitation to her 10th high school reunion this year. It made her reflect on the fact that she felt eons behind where she should be in life, despite having graduated college, living independently, and having a career. It broke my heart to hear her relate reaching and achieving financial success and 100% financial independence to climbing Everest.

I had to remind her, as I remind many of my friends, clients and peers, that until recently we millennials had never known an economy that wasn’t in recession. Millennials have a tough time identifying the true scale and scope of the recent global financial crisis. That’s because though the headlines and financial realities of the situation halted our literal and figurative dreams, we didn’t really have anything else to compare to these troubling times.

I shared with her my own hesitation in investing in the stock market for the first time. I told her how I related more to my great grandfather hiding coffee tins full of money in the barn than I did my own parents who were credit-card crazy in the 80’s.

Young successful businessman with tablet, latinI am very fortunate to work with clients across every life stage, but I do admit to having a soft spot for my fellow millennials. The overarching theme in all of my meetings with them is the quest for affirmation. Am I going to be okay? Will I ever even be able to retire? Why am I not as successful or as far along as my parents were? Not to mention the overwhelmingly negative connotations of debt we feel, and the loss of sleep over ever being able to pay it off.

As a future Certified Financial Planner™, I aim to encourage our millennial clients to toss out the pre-conceived notions of success and the comparison to generations prior. Every generation’s version of the American Dream has shifted invariably throughout time, but we are truly a unique force. From the interesting economic landscape we currently face to living in times that are advancing (technologically speaking) at an exponential rate, we are globally united as a generation in our struggles – but also in our successes.

In an era of overexploitation and instant gratification, with a college tuition-inflation rate seemingly higher than health care’s, we are unknowingly consuming more information in an hour than our grandparents did in a week. This means we need to be cognizant of the fact that the millennial generation is working with a completely different set of variables than any of our predecessors, and therefore we cannot judge ourselves by the same standards.

I like to remind our younger clients that though it may seem we are off to a slower start, or have a “failure to launch” problem, our life spans will also likely be longer. Our working years and career stages will consequently be very different. Some of us could be looking at a 40+-year retirement. In short, yes, times have changed – but hope is not lost.

Famous author Simon Sinek, who regularly comments on the millennial generation and its characteristics as a whole, provides us a great reminder that “leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.” Bad financial habits are, at the end of the day, just bad habits. Nevertheless, in our journey going forward, what success looks like for each and every one of us is completely within our own grasp to obtain.

Ashlee Veneman

Ashlee Veneman  is a CFP® -candidate in the  Fresno office of The Planning Center, a fee-only financial planning and wealth management firm.

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