Millennials Go Old School

It’s not just beards, butchers and bicycles that Millennials are bringing back. The youngest adults in America, aged 18-29, are also showing signs that they’re old souls in the way they manage their money.

This finding was uncovered through the 2014 Planning and Progress Study, an annual research project commissioned by Northwestern Mutual. The study explores Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward finances and planning.

According to the research, Millennials recognize the importance of saving and investing and tend to be more proactive about planning than their older counterparts.

The study brought to the surface distinct attitudes and behaviors that Millennials have toward money. These include:

  • They’re not swinging for the fences. Only 14% say that when it comes to saving and investing, they are aiming high and pursuing as much growth as possible
  • They’re willing to be patient. 30% favor “slow and steady” as their financial-planning approach, while another 30% prefer to be more cautious but feel they have a lot of catching up to do
  • They’re the most disciplined generation since their grandparents. In fact, they’re even more disciplined than their grandparents. Even though they’re just starting out, 62% say they are “highly disciplined” or “disciplined” financial planners, compared to 54% for adults aged 60+
  • They’re humble. Despite their focus on planning, 68% believe there is room for improvement in how they manage their money

“While not quite putting money in the mattress, Gen Y definitely takes a more retro approach to how they handle their finances,” says Greg Oberland, Northwestern Mutual executive vice president. “I’m guessing they’re making a lot of grandparents very proud.”

Although they may be ahead of the curve in making financial planning a priority, the large majority of Millennials recognize they can do even better.

  • As mentioned earlier, though more than two thirds (68%) say there is room for improvement, they are most likely to say they’re uncertain of where to find help (28%) .
  • Only one in eight 18-29 year olds (13%) have a financial advisor.

“Many Millennials have fairly straightforward finances at this stage in their lives, so it makes sense that only a small percentage work with advisors,” says Oberland. “But clearly, the appetite and attitudes make for great opportunity. For advisors, the message is clear – if they can meet in kind the interest, discipline and humility of Millennials, they may very well have relationships for a lifetime.”

The study was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Northwestern Mutual, and included 2,092 American adults aged 18 or older who participated in an online survey between January 21 and February 5, 2014.


By Ayo Mseka