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Think you know the Next Gen investor? Think again.

Lazy. Entitled. Narcissistic. Spendthrifts. Digitally obsessed. Google the term “Millennial” (ages 21-36), and these are some of the words you will find to describe this generation. But our research of over 1,000 Millennials shatters those stereotypes. We see investors who are extremely conservative, savers not investors, and not nearly as self-directed as one would expect. And they worry about their parents’ financial health and futures as much as they worry about their own.


Millennials’ attitudes about money, risk and success have been shaped by two unprecedented phenomena: (1) access to lightning-fast technology innovation and (2) dramatic economic and market volatility that constrained their job prospects and earning abilities, as well as disrupted their parents’ real estate values, investment portfolios and retirement savings.


The Next Gen investor is markedly conservative, more like the WWII generation who came of age during the Great Depression and are in retirement. This translates into their attitude toward the market as we see Millennials, including those with higher net worth, holding significantly more cash than any other generation. They fully buy into the redefinition of risk as permanent loss, an investor insight we observed in the 2Q 2013 edition of UBS Investor Watch. And while optimistic about their abilities to achieve goals and their financial futures, Millennials seem somewhat skeptical about long-term investing as the way to get there.


When it comes to achieving success and financial stability, Millennials are as worried about their parents as their parents are about them. As a result of seeing their parents’ retirement and investing plans disrupted by market volatility, Millennials put concerns about their parents’ financial stability near the top of the list of worries. In turn, parents of Millennials worry that their children will have a harder time achieving financial stability and success, and feel they must provide help along the way.


Millennials are realistic about needing advice when it comes to meeting their financial goals. Surprisingly, when making a financial decision, Millenials are no more self-directed than other generations. Rather than relying exclusively on social media and online sources, Millennials tell us that they look for face-to-face advice from people they trust, and who listen to them—particularly family or a family-referred  professional.


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