MONEY AND MILLENNIALS
Millennials are picking pets over people
Millennials are doomed
Millennials are totally destroying this country
Millennials are having less sex
Millennials are workaholics
Millennials are the anxious generation
Millennials are ruining the workforce
Millennials are narcissistic
Millennials are terrible people
Millennials are mindless zombies
Millennials are freeloaders
Millennials are the job market’s biggest losers
Millennials are the worst
(Yep, these are actual headlines. Feel free to Google them.)
Do we talk enough about money in public spaces? I don’t think we even talk enough about it in private spaces. I don’t see people discussing money very often, online or IRL. It’s always been a subject wrapped in secrecy and anxiety for many. On Gaby Dunn’s new podcast Bad With Money she asks people their favourite sex position and they answer it stifling a giggle. She then asks the same person what is currently sitting in their bank account and they go instantly silent.
Talking about Millennials
I was invited to a conference this week to talk about millennials and money by a brilliant company called Boring Money at the Savoy Hotel. Their company tag line is “smart investing for normal people”. This is what I like about them; they are approachable, friendly and inclusive. They crunch the numbers and share ideas in a nonintrusive way. I’m glad to be associated with them and was thrilled to be invited to come and deliver a ten minute talk about ways in which financial services could improve the ways in which they speak to 20-somethings in their marketing campaigns and on the whole. Because the question seems to be: how do we get a seemingly screwed generation to invest, save and increase their earnings? How do we talk to them, so that they’ll listen? Why isn’t it working?
I’ll put my hands up and admit: I skim and delete emails that talk about pensions in the subject line. My accountant has to babysit me. I’m not a spreadsheet kinda person. I like easy apps. I don’t trust big financial companies. I block ads that bore me. If my friend’s ever bitch about bad service from a company, it has a knock-on effect on me. I don’t engage with banks on social media. Ironically I don’t go and hunt out the FT, but I do ask my friends questions who work at places like the FT. Social querying and social networking is our bread and butter. Friends. Word of mouth. Trust.
Like a classic millennial (apparently), I don’t spend money on “things”. I like experiences. I like the idea of saving here and there in my own special way — but we all know it’s hard to save. Most millennials are tricked into badly paid internships. Or working for exposure. Or reading endless updates about the housing crisis. Or struggling with student debt. Or regretting opening up another credit card. I doubt many young people wake up every morning and think about their pension, especially when they are cutting it fine every month paying the bills.
Talking about money
So we cannot deny that savings and a “financial cushion” matters enormously. Money matters.
One of my favourite sections in Amy Schumer’s memoir speaks of the freedom and pride that money can bring: “I’m not going to bullshit you: it feels great to know I can send my niece to any school she wants. It’s relaxing to know I can pay for my dad to be in a better facility and make sure he sees the best MS specialist in America.” It’s really refreshing to hear a young women talk confidently about money, while also saying: “I don’t believe money changes your level of happiness. But things do get easier, and I feel great in the moments when I can help someone.”
Money matters. I love making money. However I don’t ever daydream of my fabulous retired life! My dream goal is to work in a way that works for me throughout my life in different phases (and here’s my post on flexible working ICYMI) so that when I’m really old I don’t have to ever cut myself off and “retire” I simply carry on working in a way that suits me. I like what I do. In a recent episode of my podcast with my friend Ros Jana, she talks about how she’d still like to be writing when she’s eighty. We can’t help it: when you blur work and life you don’t ever daydream about stopping.
Saving money “for much later on” is sometimes hard to wrap your head around, in a world where technology advances and changes so much every day, every year. When so many jobs that we do now didn’t even exist less than ten years ago, how do we know what we’ll be doing in another ten? How can be plan for anything? So yes, we should be saving — but equally it makes it hard to imagine any sort of future or what we’re saving for, because who knows.
I’ve never believed in saving my best beauty products or favourite outfits for “special occasions”. I wear the expensive dress to buy milk. I wear my best moisturiser alone in the house. I use things up. Just like I don’t like the idea of saving most of my money for “later on in life”. I want to spend it! I want to see the world (if I can), I want to live. Because what if you never get round to using it? I don’t want to sit on a pile of stuff. I don’t want to regret anything. I don’t want to do that thing where you hit an age and think “why didn’t I just go for it?”
Maybe it’s extremely irresponsible, but it’s how I often feel.
Or maybe there’s been a breakdown in the messaging of the importance of saving from the money experts. Talk to us. Properly. Don’t send emails on a rainy Tuesday afternoon about pensions. But do talk to us about our future.
If we don’t trust big faceless organisations to guide us, who should we turn to? I trust my friends. I’m lucky to have a very good support network of people who offer me brilliant advice. I trust new passionate start-up companies. I trust authenticity. I trust things that are transparent. We can all see through you, so you might as well not try and hide things.
I’m very passionate about talking more about money. It’s one of my random personal goals, in fact. To encourage more conversation around the thing that is still taboo. Money. No one talks about money.
I’m also extremely interested in marketing and advertising. Well, actually I’m interested in conversations. But I like coming up with ideas on how to marryold fashioned real conversation with content + advertising. How to actually talk to people in a way that’s exciting. Not spew out the same old rubbish and just expect people to listen and respect you. I don’t believe in formulas, or buzzwords or sales-speak or consumer language. I believe advertising often doesn’t speak the human language. I believe in real human conversation. Maybe that’s why starting my podcast that focuses on raw conversation around topics that interest me.
I want people to talk more openly about money. How to make it, keep it and save it. We’ve been sworn to secrecy around pay. Money is something we shouldn’t talk about. And yet: the pay gap still exists in many industries, so being secret about money is surely something benefiting some people out there.
There really are only a few companies who do “get it”. Like Boring Money, a company which strives to make money something we should talk about. Other online destinations like The Financial Diet and The Billfold, they talk openly and comfortably to this generation that the bigger companies can’t seem to connect with. The guidance always comes with context (friends, life, boyfriend, work, debt, circumstances). No graphs, no industry lingo. Just life stuff.
So, do people hate millennials?
Do we expect too much because we’ve had the Internet at our finger tips since the beginning? Are we hated?
Judging by the headlines above: Yes. (Maybe not as much as people hate the TERM “millennials” though.)
To deliver a talk about millennials (from a millennial perspective) to a room full of financial services CEOs this week was quite the challenge. But I believe in speaking up about things I feel passionate about; and I do feel like “millennials” get a bad rap so sometimes we just have to grin and bear it.
Although I’m anti-generalisations, here’s a few that I seem to have gathered along the way, that you can agree or disagree on: I truly believe we’re not entitled, but that we’ve been somehow gifted the courage to ask to do things a bit differently. Millennials aren’t sheep. And people who aren’t sheep can be a nightmare to work with. I understand that. Millennials on the whole don’t seem to very good with routine for routine’s sake.
Being invited to speak as a “millennial voice” is almost like signing yourself to be prodding at a zoo with a stick. People talk behind your back, but to your face. People generalise about you without asking many questions. Most of the time they openly feel sorry for you and you’re confused as to why.
No one can ever “represent” a generation. No one can speak “on behalf of” other people. We all laughed at the OTT joke in GIRLS HBO when Hannah Horvath says “I may be the voice of my generation; or at least a voice of a generation.”. It’s a joke. It’s sold on T-shirts as a joke. It’s poking fun at people who think they could ever represent a generation. There is always going to be divide between younger generations and older generations. That is just how the world goes around. I like learning from younger people. Teenagers nowadays? Campaigning, questioning, asking, learning, sharing, challenging things. I can’t help but feel like we could be in safe hands.
So did I spend 10 minutes defending my generation?
I think so.
Because honestly? I believe we are trying our best with what we’ve got.
So here are some thoughts on “how to speak to Millennials”:
- Stop assuming they are wildly different to you. They are a younger generation finding their feet in the workplace, sure, but that was you too, once upon a time.
- Just because Millennials are bad with money doesn’t mean they’re not making any. There are brand new ways of making money out there at the moment that a lot of 20-somethings seem to be cracking. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.
- On that note, collaboration is always better than division. I often feel these discussions are “us” and “them” and it doesn’t get anyone very far.
- Don’t expect one “millennial voice” to speak on behalf of an entire generation. There’s no formula. There’s no collective voice.
- Diversify your employees. Age, gender, race, class, sexuality, background. Millennials get turned off when things aren’t representative of a multi-faceted world. We are used to hearing from all different voices online and we want to see that reflected in the real life too.
- If you are struggling to “manage” your millennial staff, then a solution needs to be put in place. In just a few years Millennials will make up the largest part of the global workforce. The issue at hand is probably not a phase. Millennials work hard, but you might be oblivious to those “invisible” hours.
- Not all Millennials say “yolo” and “fomo” or “whatevs” as they walk down the street. Don’t include “cool young buzzwords” in your marketing and expect millennials to lap it up.
I don’t know if my talk resonated with the people who work in the financial sectors this week. I hope so. But I am reminding myself every day that it’s OK to use your voice. To always speak. To give it a go.
I’m usually preaching to the choir with my references to teens and the internet, ~millennials~ and sexism in the workplace at events with young women in the audience so this event was slightly different. But I enjoyed it.
Sadly I do still feel like Millennials are still rather misunderstood in relation to the workplace (how we work), marketing (what resonates with us) and money (what we should be doing with it). So let’s keep the conversation about our “future”
If you are interested in inviting me to speak at an event, my agent is Leo Von Bülow-Quirk at Chartwell Speakers.
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