With a different take on careers and life priorities, many Millennials have fallen behind on retirement savings. What they need are financial professionals who “get” them.
For generations, people graduated from high school or college, landed a job, then spent the next 30-plus years building a career — and a pension. No more. The 83.2 million members of the Millennial generation in the U.S. are creating their own rules about careers as they shape their futures and work toward their financial goals. Although many aspects of this future are uncertain, one thing is for sure: Savvy financial professionals will have to adapt their strategies to meet the ever-changing needs of Millennials.
Quitting is the new promotion
Many Millennials aren’t wasting time at what they perceive as dead-end jobs. Instead, they are quitting the corporate merry-go-round in exchange for the freedom to travel or freelance. In general, Millennials are delaying commitments such as marriage, family, home ownership, and retirement savings until later in life in order to live out these dreams.
A recent study showed that 43% of Millennials surveyed envision leaving their jobs within two years, and only 28% seek to stay beyond five years. It seems quitting is the new promotion. And it’s a trend that’s spreading across all demographics as the job market’s strength provides a sense of career resilience.
The percentage of workers (of any age) quitting their jobs reached 2.4% in May, the highest level in more than 16 years, according to Labor Department statistics. But unlike their older colleagues who are leaving for better paying jobs, wanderlust may be at the root of the trend for Millennials.
Investment can wait
Of course these “quitters” are leaving behind more than a steady paycheck. Millennials who ditch the 9-to-5 life may turn their backs on a very important piece of their financial future: their 401(k).
Even though two-thirds of Millennials work for an employer that offers a retirement plan, only slightly over one-third (34.3%) participates. A recent report from the National Institute on Retirement Security found that more than 66% of working Millennials have nothing saved for retirement. And among the 34% who are squirreling away earnings for their golden years, only 5% are saving adequately. Why? It’s just not a priority.
The TransamericaCenter for Retirement Studies® found that 54% of Millennials preferred not to think about or concern themselves with retirement investing until they get closer to their retirement date. Short-term goals, such as homeownership, vacations, paying down debt, and building an emergency fund take a front seat to long-term financial plans. A recent survey found one in three Millennials have even siphoned money off their retirement fund to purchase their first homes.
Compounding the problem
By delaying their savings, Millennials are losing the one commodity that is not replaceable: time. Compound interest on even meager monthly investments over a 20- or 30-year period adds up.
That ticking clock is compounded by another reality: At present, the Social Security reserve fund may be tapped out by 2034 — at least a decade before the oldest Millennials reach the age of 67. That means it will only have enough revenue to pay 79% of promised benefits. To bridge the savings gap, the majority of Millennials will need a smart investment strategy.
Financial professionals: Think like a Millennial
Tried-and-true tools like risk assessments may not be effective when helping Millennials plan their financial futures. Savvy financial professionals will have to employ creative investment solutions to meet this independent-thinking generation on its own terms. Here are four strategies to consider.
1. Build in time and resources for adventure
Long-term savings is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Understanding the individuals’ lifestyle and priorities will allow you to help determine the best savings tools to fit their needs. Your Millennial client’s career and savings goals may include detours for travel, advanced education, or starting their own business. Long-term planning may require rolling 401(k)s into IRAs, creating short-term savings accounts to fund travel, or helping young entrepreneurs raise capital and setting up business accounts for their latest enterprise.
2. Use technology
Millennials are digital natives. Set up savings and investment accounts with auto-enrollment and auto-increase features to make the process for them a no-brainer. Encourage the use of budgeting apps to help them monitor spending, pay off debt, and set aside funds for short-term savings goals.
3. Make investment appealing
Millennials are worldly in many ways, but a majority may have misconceptions and fears about investing. Having seen the effects of the financial crisis, many are understandably skittish when it comes to the stock market. Of 500 Millennials surveyed by Lend Edu, 52% admitted that the 2008 financial crisis has kept them from investing for retirement in the stock market. And 59% said they were “afraid of the stock market.” Overcoming market aversion will require demonstrating the benefits of various long-term investment tools and options, and creating a personalized strategy that takes into account their fears, as well as their dreams.
One way to make long-term investments more enticing is to offer sustainable, responsible or impact holdings. Millennials are twice as likely as overall investors to buy stock in companies targeting socially responsible investments (SRIs), according to Morgan Stanley's Institute for Sustainable Investing's 2017 Sustainable Signals report. The report also found that Millennials invested twice as often in companies targeting social or environmental goals. And when it comes to their 401(k) portfolio, 90% of Millennials surveyed expressed interest in backing SRI options.
4. Show them what they need
Don’t assume Millennials have a clear idea of the funds they will need for their golden years. Most have never used a retirement calculator. Since the majority (80%) of Millennials don’t have a formalized retirement plan in writing, defining your Millennial’s retirement savings needs can demonstrate to them the steps they need to take today to realize a financially stable tomorrow.
When the first Millennials turn 67 in 2048, what’s considered “retirement” may look very different than the way it looks today. That milestone may seem eons away for the millions of independent-thinking 20- to 30-somethings, but every day that passes without a sound retirement plan is one less that they have to create a successful second (or third or fourth) act. Guiding Millennials into forward-thinking financial decisions can make a big difference in how their future is shaped.
To read more about generational differences on retirement attitudes and preparedness, download the 18th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers.
Article was created by CNBC Brand Studio for Transamerica. Transamerica is not affiliated with CNBC Brand Studio.
Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, tax, legal or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent advisors for answers to your specific questions.