The Anxiety Of Millennial Affluents

Sure, we all know the Millennials. You know, the biggest generation ever. The ones so full of optimism and creativity. The ones obsessed with technology. The ones living with their parents. But not much attention is paid to the affluent ones, the ones with HHI at over $180k. Can we measure them with the same yardstick that we measure the rest of the 76.4 million of their generational cohorts? The answer is yes and no. 

The affluents of the Millennial generation came of age during the same Great Recession, and saw friends and family (and often themselves) strapped with student debt and a depressing job market. Their outlook has been tempered by the post-9/11 world of terrorism, frequent natural disasters, mass shootings, and global economic instability. So, while the more financially successful members of this generation might make their bank accounts unique, so, too, does their sense of unease and incredulity about their money and spending. 

Affluent Millennials understand the delicate balance of forces at work in the world that could bring them from the penthouse to the basement faster than they can say Yuan devaluation. More than half of Millennial millionaires feel so vulnerable that say they’re afraid of losing it all, according to UBS Market Watch. And, as a result, it’s rendered them into a group of enthusiastic – albeit nervous – savers. According to T. Rowe Price, 74% of affluent Millennials say they’re more comfortable saving or investing money than spending it. And it shows: they’re increasing their 401(k) contributions faster than any other generational segment. And they’re running into the arms of like-minded and technology-based investment services like Wealthfront and Betterment, which offer conservative, algorithm-based index products with transparent fees.

Reaching affluent Millennials requires a slightly different playbook. Their yearnings aren’t for private islands or flashy supercars. The luxury cues of yesteryear are less relevant – and often tacky – today. Most important to vulnerable, skeptical affluent Millennials is trust. They want to know that there’s something real and tangible in the brands they favor. That’s why they, like many of their generation, prefer products and services that feel authentic. Tell them a story, give them a sense of place and genuineness, and they’ll listen. Attempt to entice them with shiny objects or exclusivity and their bullshit meters go off. 

And if anxiety is a pervasive trait of affluent Millennials, one of the ways that they seek relief is definitively mainstream Millennial: via events, services, and experiences. Spending money on luxury goods and gathering up stuff is much less important than creating one-of-a-kind moments. And giving them something unique that they can share with their friends is far more interesting than giving them something they can show their friends. 

Ultimately, every brand in the world is poring through reams of data to crack the elusive and brand-bored Millennials. But starting a conversation with affluent Millennials might require a special dose of humanity and a touch more empathy.

3 comments about "The Anxiety Of Millennial Affluents".
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  1. Ronald Kurtz from American Affluence Research Center, September 18, 2015 at 12:45 p.m.

    Would appreciate having your number of the millennials with an income of $180K+ and the source of that number.  Thanks.

  2. Scott Allan from Pure Oxygen Labs, September 18, 2015 at 2:43 p.m.

    Nice article and well put. What's also interesting about millenials is also their use of apps. Millenials are glued to their phone and apps in particular. Marketers need the capability to proactively decide (across markeitng channels) when to open apps vs. mobile website and when to prompt app installs. Lots of testing and learning to be done in this area by omnichannel marketers. @PureO2Labs

  3. Scott Allan from Pure Oxygen Labs replied, September 18, 2015 at 2:47 p.m.

    Ron - you might find some interesting numbers here:

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