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Millennial investors are receiving one of the largest wealth transfers in history, and exhibiting differing investment behaviors from their predecessors in this transition. We seek to provide insight on their behaviors and trends, and how these could influence investment processes and decisions. Understanding millennials and their investing process provides insight to the direction of investing going forward and trends that we can expect to continue from coming generations.
During 2020, one of the largest wealth transfers in history began to take place as millennials started inheriting wealth from their parents. While this wealth transfer has coincided with COVID and lockdowns, in some unfortunate circumstances it has simultaneously been accelerated by COVID deaths and consequent inheritance. Millennials, those born between 1981-1997 and ranging in age from 24-40 years are starting to enter the next phase of earnings growth and are expected to inherit about $24 trillion by 2030.1 This transfer has brought on a host of changes in the investment landscape as millennial behavior differs greatly from that of preceding generations.
Despite the presumed lesser maturity of millennials, their sense of financial responsibility suggests that they are prepared for the implications of inheritance. Those at the apex of this wealth transfer have demonstrated an understanding of the weight of their inheritances. Many who fall into this category have taken the responsibility to educate themselves on how to handle this wealth or have sought out professionals to better prepare them. Compared to baby boomers and gen-xers, millennials typically begin the financial education process earlier, at around 20 years old, compared to 25 years for gen-xers and 32 years for baby boomers. Within this group, about 69% prefer to do their own financial research, 53% seek out knowledgeable individuals for guidance, 49% read the financial press and 46% are already managing their own investments. Taking initiative in these areas has positioned millennials to have a sound, financial awareness in preparation for their mass inheritances.2
In addition to their own preparedness, millennials are conscious about the fact that they will need to provide guidance for their heirs as well. After receiving some direction and conducting their own research, those inheriting this wealth want to ensure that further inheritors are even more prepared. Many believe that they could have received better education or guidance, with about 53% looking to provide stronger support to beneficiaries.3 A stipulation that many intend to uphold as well is the distribution of inheritance over the course of years, rather than simply as a lump sum. In these ways, millennials are exercising very proactive and forward-thinking financial practices.
Millennial inheritors have had different experiences from their predecessors, which have shaped how they accumulate wealth and how they choose to put their money to work. Some of these investors remember the 2008-2009 market crash and its effects on the housing market and economy. The impact of that recession has slowed their wealth accumulation, and thus slowed their housing purchases. Home ownership is typically higher among high net worth, millionaire millennials (92%) who see real estate as a means to acquire wealth, while only about 63% of total millennials are homeowners.4
Millennials demonstrate strong interests in practicality, technology, work/life balance and values and charitable giving.
With increasing ride-share services and decreasing parking areas as cities continue to grow, millennials have found themselves more concerned with practicality than appearance when it comes to owning a vehicle. Many have chosen not to own, and rather rely on ride-share services or public transportation. Others who do own are more likely to purchase a sedan as gas prices increase and parking in cities has become exceedingly difficult to find.
Millennials are the largest users of social media platforms, and are major consumers of digital information and technology. Technology is used in all aspects of their lives; it is how they gather news, and stay connected, research and shop. This trend is seen in banking as well. Millennials are more open to online money management platforms and moving away from traditional banks.
Alongside pay and benefits as top priorities when looking for a job, millennials are becoming increasingly concerned with the values of the company they work for and maintaining work/life balance. As the population continues to grow more socially involved, some millennials are not willing to compromise on these areas when it comes to the workplace, with about 56% of those surveyed indicating they had bypassed working for certain companies based on their values or conduct, and about an equal amount had refused specific assignments for the same reason.5 Flexibility, work/life balance and mental health have all taken top priority among millennial employees and they will gravitate more towards companies that encourage these principles.
Enhanced social awareness and a sense of responsibility lends to millennials’ eagerness to participate in charitable giving. Millennials seek to align with causes they care about, and choose to use their money to support socially responsible causes. This may result in more charitable giving among millennials, and we believe this socially aware mindset flows over into investments as well.
Millennials feel a strong conviction to invest in socially responsible ways as younger generations demonstrate a keen awareness of social concerns. With instantly accessible information and constant connection to social media and news outlets, millennials and younger investors have greater exposure to the world’s problems. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) centric investing has become a primary focus for millennials and younger generations. They are more concerned with investing in companies that support their personal values rather than those that might simply provide high returns. These inventors demonstrate their sentiment towards social responsibility by vetting companies’ impact on the environment, eco-conscious operations, sustainability and diversity and inclusion policies, and then investing accordingly.
Exposure to digital and virtual concepts is inherent in the upbringing of millennials, leading to their comfort with crypto investments that older generations seem to avoid. These younger investors are already predisposed to using tech, and are able to lean on it more heavily while bringing everyone else along. The concept of digital wallets and crypto as currency comes intuitively to them, as they were introduced to digitalization at a younger age than previous generations. Their comfort in the space has led millennials to own more crypto assets than any other generation. There are many alluring aspects about digital assets: trading is uninterrupted and takes place 24 hours a day; crypto offers the potential for high and quick returns; decentralized finance (DeFi) apps are unregulated, providing decentralized online money management; and there is low correlation to traditional assets.
As they continue to inherit wealth from baby boomers over the next 10-15 years, we believe this turn to ESG investing and cryptocurrencies will continue to grow.
1 Source: Deloitte 2015
2 Source: RBC Wealth Management 2017
3 Source: RBC Wealth Management 2017
4 Source: Coldwell Banker Global 2019
5 Source: Deloitte 2021
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