As a member of the millennial generation, I know quite well the less-than-flattering stereotypes associated with my generation: We’re the ones who grew up during the era of the participation trophy, so we’re all plagued by a sense of entitlement and disconnected from reality. As a millennial working at BlackRock, I’ve learned that these same traits applied to investing can lead to a really bad outcome.
A bit more about that stereotype. Speaking for myself and my contemporaries, I can assure you we aren’t all living in ignorance of the dollars and sense of the real world: Many of us were getting our first substantive work when the financial crisis rolled across the globe. I remember talking to my parents about the downturn and their retirement savings, fearing for their situation while also becoming acutely aware of the importance of a 401(k). Today, many of my friends are forced to choose between saving and paying off student loan debt, which totals more than $1 trillion in the U.S. We all know we’ll never have a traditional pension. Bottom line: None of us believe in what my colleague Heather Pelant calls “the retirement fairy”.
Now the investing part, where we discover a silver lining to the gloom and doom. Bank failures and busted savings and investing accounts forced all of us – not just millennials – to think about investing in a new and different way. It’s not about one-off trades; it’s about building a long-term plan according to our needs and goals. I’m glad to be an investor in today’s post-crisis environment, as my experience over the past decade has pushed me to take a more hands-on approach to my investments. There are several resources millennials like me are using to help guide how we invest:
- Leveraging the technology marketplace. Ample resources, from online forums to savings calculators, are an obvious go-to among a generation who began exploring the world online in elementary school. Today’s investor can find many of the explanations and concepts they need instantaneously via search engines, blogs and the likes of Investopedia.
- Cultivating an advisory relationship. When we can’t find an answer online, millennials do in fact turn to experts for guidance – but a new kind of expert: The rise of online advisors and other resources makes this process easier than ever before. And, as an expected $30 trillion in assets will shift from Baby Boomers to their heirs in the next 20 to 30 years, more financial advisors will be shifting their focus to this demographic.
- Using new tools. BlackRock research tells us that nearly two in five younger investors (aged 25-49) hold ETFs in their portfolios. It’s no wonder, as ETFs generally cost less than other investment types and make it easy to invest in broad categories or niche sectors. You can learn more about ETFs here.
- Investing for a cause. A recent study by Nielsen found that millennials are willing to pay a premium for goods and services that have a positive social or environmental effect. Enter the rise of responsible investing or impact investing, which allows us to not only invest for the future, but also to invest in the future.
As a millennial, what resources do you use to learn more about investing? Share your stories here and stay tuned for my next post: We’ll explore what all the headlines about interest rates mean for you.
Ann Hynek is the Global Editor of The Blog, writing about investing from a millennial perspective.