millennials sign up for health insurance
Posted by: Howard Dvorkin, CPA
Date of post: October 24, 2016

I often worry about the financial future of the next generation. But it's hard to tell whether my fears are misplaced with this research.

Over the past few years, I’ve written more about millennials than my own generation — and all other generations combined. I’ve toggled between cautious hope (Will They Be The Greatest Financial Generation?), downright optimism (Why We Need To Stop Sneering At Millennials), and dark doubt (My Millennial Skepticism).

Part of the problem is the research itself. Much of it contradicts previous research. Now, there’s another round of millennial studies with bad and mixed news…

Bad: Not profit prophets

The auditing firm Deloitte is not known for slap-dash research. So I believe the international firm when it says it took its sweet time “analyzing three years of data…looking at culture as a whole.”

In a wide-ranging white paper called, The Millennial Majority Is Transforming Your Culture, Deloitte published one statistics without comment — but I want to comment…

There is a declining percentage of millennials who believe businesses should work primarily to generate profit: in 2013, 35 percent agreed with that statement; by 2015 that number had dropped to 27 percent.

Profit is what’s in your paycheck. Profit pays for your raise. Profit isn’t evil — like anything else in the world, bad people can misuse it. If nearly three-fourths of a generation can’t discern the nuance, they may have trouble taking over American business as they age — and even more trouble taking care of their families.

Mixed: Aware of their ignorance

When my generation spends so much time researching millennials, it’s no surprise that millennials might feel self-conscious about all the attention. So Northwestern Mutual’s 2016 Planning & Progress Study actually polled millennials about their “awareness.”

It was a mixed bag of responses. On the positive side, “58 percent consider themselves ‘highly disciplined’ or ‘disciplined’ financial planners” and “86 percent are confident that they will achieve their financial goals.”

But is that overconfidence? Because they also admit…

Among the generations, Millennials are least likely to anticipate more financial crises in the future 66 percent vs. 76 percent for Gen X (ages 35-49) and 80 percent for Americans ages 50-plus.”

Even odder, 34 percent think it’s “not at all likely” that Social Security will be solvent by the time they need it in retirement. Yet they still think they’ll be just fine. Am I just a cynical old man?