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July 12, 2017 | by Michael Liersch, director of behavioral finance, Investment Analytics, Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management

Millennials and Money

An exclusive, in-depth look at the new investment generation gap

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In a survey conducted on behalf of Merrill Lynch’s Private Banking and Investment Group, a new picture of Millennials emerges that is almost perfectly at odds with their stereotypical depiction. The 153 participants in this Young High Net Worth Insights Survey, which focuses on some of the most affluent members of this generation, includes those who have inherited most of their wealth as well as those who acquired it through entrepreneurial ventures or by working their way up at lucrative jobs. While each has investable assets of at least $1 million, very few describe themselves as having a high level of knowledge regarding financial and investment matters, challenging the conviction that those raised in the era of the participation trophy—where everyone receives an award for showing up—are somehow grievously overconfident. 

The Millennials in our survey don’t come across as entitled, disengaged from the real world or enthralled by instant gratification. Instead, the data portray a group who are very much oriented toward the future, and who have a strong sense of responsibility, whether to their families, communities or society in general.

These young people aren’t rebelling against the traditional investment approaches advocated by their parents. Not only do most say they would have no objection to using their parents’ financial advisors, they are also most likely to describe their investment philosophy as “buy and hold.” They aren’t turning to their friends and peers in their digitally managed social networks for investment guidance, and don’t uniformly spurn professional advice. To the contrary, eager to learn, they seem to value expertise wherever they can find it.

Here is a classic mismatch between perception and reality. Clearly there are differences between this generation and its predecessors. Every generation has its distinguishing characteristics born of their historical moments. But for the most part, the differences are subtler and more complex than some might think. And it works both ways. Just as there are plenty of misconceptions about Millennials, today’s young people, too, have false impressions about the wealth management industry, the markets, and the long-term consequences of their attitudes and behaviors regarding investing. Learn more about these and other observations in the white paper!

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