Preparing to get my own income taxes done, an article on Forbes.com caught my eye. It discusses a study by the Brookings Tax Policy Center that found that the wealth of Gen Y is stagnating. They noted that people in their 30’s (or younger) have no more net worth today than someone their age 27 years ago. In fact, some age groups actually lost ground. It seems for many Millennials, the American Dream of being wealthier than your parents may no longer be a reality.
While most marketers can’t change the recession, lack of jobs, the high cost of education or mounting student loan debt, there are still opportunities to champion this generation’s financial well-being. To help them accumulate wealth more quickly and eventually have money to manage, they need to be engaged in new ways.
Millennials live by a different life equation than previous generations. Either by necessity or design, most Millennials don’t buy into the old notion that life’s joy comes from making money, buying stuff, and eventually retiring to a life of leisure. Looking at a handful of ads from wealth advisors, they still seem very focused on Boomers and are not yet speaking to Gen Y. They feature active, carefree images of aging white people with just the right amount of grey hair and headlines like “Enjoy retirement the way you always envisioned.”
While great for Boomers, for Gen Y, leisure is something that is enjoyed all life long rather than saved for retirement. They value life balance so brands would do well to get them involved in how they can achieve their leisure goals throughout their life, not just after they retire.
They are also optimizers and regularly fine-tune many areas of their life. They optimize their wardrobe by mixing designer with H&M; they mix their own music with Spotify and optimize their health with a FuelBand or an app like MyFitnessPal to name a few. Brands can help them satisfy their desire for achievement by making it easy to optimize their financial life and get rewarded for achieving their goals. Simple Bank is doing this. The whole design makes it easy and satisfying to save up for things: their “goals” interface is an elegant mash-up of MyFitnessPal and a coin jar.
You can set a date for your treat, and adjust what you’re salting away on the fly. (A birthday’s not going to change, but Mexico might have to wait a little longer … or downgrade a touch.) The point is all the knobs and dials are yours to control. It’s not just transparent; it’s playable.
Progressive Snapshot is another example of offering both control and reward for good driving achievement.
The tools most often used by Millennials add value but they also don’t require much effort. Millennials are busy and appreciate things that make measuring and tracking an easy and fun part of everyday life. My new favorite is Mint.com. It took about five minutes to sign up and have Mint load everything from every account I have. Then, in a game-like dashboard, Mint automatically tracks net worth, spending, and investing with little to no effort all the while offering helpful ideas for achieving your goals. Mint makes turning what we’ve got into something entertaining and fun…think Nike+ for financial fitness.
Finally marketers need to embrace the diversity of the Millennial generation and their interests. To be relevant, we need to move beyond images of aging boomers relaxing on a beach or golf course. Acknowledge a Millennial’s varied interests and diversity of tastes by showing them how you can help them achieve the financial means to further their interests and desire to do something meaningful. Kiva and Kickstarter both have pieces of the puzzle. Apps like cause.it are getting closer to the everyday social impact we want to make (by helping you find where and how to contribute to local causes, and building points as you do it).
Most marketers can’t do anything about the unemployment rate but we can engage Millennials in growing their wealth in more relevant ways.