“Get ready,” wrote USA Today in 2005 about the millennials, “because this generation is different from any that have come before.” But not, it seems, in their investment attitudes. As the Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrates, these young protestors are echoing the cynical, questioning, challenging attitudes of their baby boomer forebears. According to a recent Investing Sentiment survey by MFS Investment Management, the millennials “are conservative investors and invest more like their baby boomer parents, despite their long-term time horizon.”
The millennials, also known as Generation Y, comprises 77 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 with nearly $1 trillion in spending power. When it comes to Wall Street, it seems, they might also be called Generation Why? Forty percent, according to the MFS survey agree with the statement, “I will never feel comfortable investing in the stock market." Nearly half put off investment decisions, while 59 percent consider themselves to be savers more than investors.
The millennials have come of age during the dot.com bust, the 2008 economic collapse, and the subsequent market tumult. They’ve seen how it may have impacted their parents and are now concerned for their own financial futures. More than half (54 percent) agreed with the statement, “I’m more concerned than ever about being able to retire when I thought,” while 44 percent have lowered their expectations about their quality of life in retirement.”
This explains their risk-averse attitudes toward investing. Almost a third (30 percent) said that it is more important to protect their principal, just slightly less than the 34 percent who said their primary goal is to grow their assets.
On a positive note, the MFS survey found the millennials to be knowledgeable and engaged investors…at least in their own minds. Sixty-two percent said they enjoy investing, while 64 percent and 78 percent, respectively, are optimistic about the economy and their own five-year futures.
Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) report they are disciplined about putting aside money for saving and investing, while nearly 60 percent said they have received investment advice in the past year. Sixty-nine percent reported at least consulting with an advisor regarding investment decisions, more than any other age group.
These conflicting attitudes---concern about the present/optimism for the future are also reflected in a recent investor survey conducted by Millionaire Corner. More than half (55 percent) under the age of 40 believe they will be better off financially in one year compared to 36 percent of those ages 51-60. But 58 percent of those under 40 doubts that the next generation will be better off than the current generation compared with 42 percent who say they will.