Millennials and money: How the next generation looks at wealth

Wealth planning

From near-term goals to technology influences, here are some areas for Millennials to look at when planning for their future.


In an age of high-speed technology and instant Google answers, Millennials expect even their investment information to be immediately accessible.

One-click access to online banking is a given for younger people and this also extends to their investment accounts, says Ai Ling Toh, a relationship manager with RBC Wealth Management in Singapore.

Millennials are the generation born between 1980 and 2000 and lived through the global financial crisis in 2008. They are more distant from the tribulations of World War II and its aftermath, an event that helped shape their parents’ mindset about money.

“The older generation focused completely on building wealth and their businesses,” says Toh. “The younger people I work with think more about themselves, their lifestyle and finding a purpose for their lives.”

The generation gap between parents and their adult offspring in the 1960s repeats itself today, this time with the Baby Boomer generation as the old-fashioned group.

“Investing has radically changed since my parent’s generation,” says Richard Vibert, a Millennial venture capitalist with Arbor Ventures who recently relocated from Hong Kong to London. “They thought in terms of saving from a young age to buy a house. Our generation is more interested in investing in assets like cryptocurrency and in real estate in another country that you can buy via an online platform, rather than owning a home.”

Lisa Song, a Millennial-age research analyst with the Nomura Research Institute America in New York City, whose most recent project is researching wealth management, says most of the Millennials she knows and works with are most concerned right now about financial stability.

“At the same time, most people in my generation are interested in doing something meaningful with our lives and with our financial investments,”says Song.

Generational division over money

Song says many Millennials focus on near-term goals such as funding their own expenses so they don’t have to rely on their families. She says their parents were more focused on saving for specific goals such as marriage, a family and retirement.

“Asian families are famous for saving money for the next generation and not spending money on themselves,” says Gina Chong, a relationship manager with RBC in Singapore. “But Asian Millennials are more likely to spend more and save less because they are confident in their ability to earn money. In addition, they know they have their parents’ savings to spend.”

Vibert believes Millennials who are interested in long-term investing rely heavily on technology. “One area of weakness for Millennials is that we keep money in all kinds of accounts and places that could be vulnerable to a cyberattack,” he says. “I like not having my money in a bank account, but I do sometimes get concerned about having my money, my name and my credentials in a variety of places.”

Millennials and financial success

While their parents probably viewed financial success as keeping a job for the long-term, climbing the corporate ladder, saving a comfortable nest egg and retiring, Vibert says Millennials have a different perspective.

“We’re more likely to look up to someone who has built their own business, sold it and built another,” he says. “Success is less about earning a decent wage and more about admiring entrepreneurs.”

That attitude extends into ideas about work, too. Vibert says Millennials’ work and personal lives are intertwined, which motivates them to think about working more rather than aiming toward a future retirement.

The second-generation future family business owners that Toh meets view financial success as working for themselves and expanding the business their parents built.

“Many of them are entrepreneurial and want to run the parents’ business as well as a subsidiary business of their own,” says Toh. “They’re ready to explore new areas and don’t see any boundaries to hold them back.”

It’s unthinkable for Millennials to consider staying in one job forever like their parents, says Chong.

“They’re more likely to be entrepreneurs and take chances,” she says.

Financial guidance for Millennials

That entrepreneurial, self-sufficient ambition impacts the way Millennials approach wealth planning.

This generation is very different from their parent’s when it comes to getting financial advice, says Toh.

“Their parents trust us completely and don’t need a second opinion on anything,” says Toh. “Millennials are new to this, so they want to check around and make sure they know almost as much as we do. They’ll ask a lot of intelligent questions, too.”

Millennials find copious amounts of information on online trading platforms that provide free reports, says Toh.

“That’s very different,” says Toh. “Their parents used to ask me to get research material for them, but Millennials come to me with materials in hand. It keeps me on my toes.”

While some Millennials have earning power on their own, many look ahead to inheriting their parent’s money and need to learn how to incorporate wealth planning into their lives.

“The number one priority of Millennials who anticipate needing to manage their parents’ wealth is to preserve that wealth,” says Chong. “But they also want to try to make more money on their own, so they’ll ask their parents to trust them with $1 million that they will invest.”

Chong says typically these Millennials want to work with their friends who have become bankers, but first they get information online about potential investments.

“Younger people are a little more willing to take risks than their parents because they feel like they can earn back any losses,” says Chong.

Millennials in a digital world

Technology influences the way Millennials invest, whether they are making personal decisions or getting wealth planning help from an advisor.

Vibert says there’s a place for financial advisors because of the importance of building trust and human relationships. He relies on his friends and connections through social media to make decisions now, but he recognizes that in the future he may want assistance with wealth planning from someone who can distill data and personalize it to his needs.

Song says individualized wealth planning will become necessary as Millennials have more wealth to manage, but she anticipates they will always access the internet first and then verify information with an advisor.

“Customization is important, so wealth managers who know how to add value to individual investors will be able to attract Millennials, especially as they inherit their parents’ money or build their own wealth,” says Song.

Song says Millennials are more likely than their parents to focus on responsible investing that may be both financially worthwhile and have an impact on their social interests, such as the environment or development in third-world countries.

“To build a relationship between Millennials and wealth managers, we need to make sure we provide them with information about things that interest them and fit their lifestyle,” says Toh. “A topic on wealth management may not get their attention; they want to hear about things they’re passionate about, such as travel to exotic places or how to expand their business digitally.”

Each generation impacts the world and evolves the way it thinks about investments. Just as their Baby Boomer parents shaped the world they inherited, Millennials will continue to shape the future of the financial world.

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