Have you ever been at a party and realized there was toilet paper stuck to your shoe? You quickly do a subtle dance to remove it (and hope no one noticed) but for the rest of the night you feel like people are talking about you. The “toilet paper incident” becomes the elephant in the room. As a millennial working in finance, I feel like the elephant in the room. Everyday my inbox is filled with articles, seminars, and round tables on millennials – topics like “How to earn business from millennials,” “Getting inside the minds of Millennials,” and my personal favorite “Millennials should move in with parents to prosper.” Experts say we are going to inherit $30 trillion dollars from our predecessors, which I guess is why they can’t stop talking about us, but I’m still not sure why they treat us like elephants.
Background on the Y Generation
Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are young adults born in the range between 1980 and 2000. In contrast to our predecessors, they say we are technology driven, appalled by high fees and less likely to understand the stock market. I realize they aren’t trying to offend me, but these so-called experts seem to be a little confused. For starters, when I’m in a crowded restaurant and do a quick room scan I am almost guaranteed to see at least 50% of people on their phones and those people won’t all be under the age of 35. Smartphones are a big part of most people’s lives, age is not a discriminator. And don’t get me started on social media – My 90 year-old grandmother is a user, and so is my 11 year old niece. I do agree that technology plays a large role in my life, especially my ability to look up information online, but having the ability to do my own research won’t stop me from wanting an expert’s opinion. Consider WebMD – great for looking up possible ailments but in no way does it replace the expertise you get from your doctor.
As for those pesky things called fees, aren’t they just a way of life? I understand that I can’t go to my mechanic and ask him to figure out why my car is making a gurgling noise without paying him for his time and expertise, so obviously I feel the same way about a qualified advisor. Advisors are to the stock market like farmers are to crops – they can’t predict what the market will do any more than a farmer can predict if his crops will be flooded or bug-infested. However, both are professionals capable of using their knowledge to determine how to mitigate losing money and harvests.
Finally, I may not be an expert on betas and mutual funds, but I can promise you that as I accumulate and increase my pot of gold, I will care a lot more about where it’s sitting and who’s watching it while it’s there. I doubt that the baby boomers who started with a $100 CD at their local bank knew any more than I do about the risks and rewards of Target Date Funds. I guess what I’m trying to say is this…the elephant in the room isn’t millennials; it’s the experts that are trying to put a couple decades worth of future leaders into the same box.