Monday, May 11, 2015

Annual report: We need to pay attention to Generation Y

Every year in late April, I attend a conference with some of the most respected financial advisers from around the country. In many ways, the conference reminds me of my college years. That’s because I continue to learn a great deal in the conference’s classroom. And the interaction, thoughts and ideas from my peers are just as valuable as the items on the conference agenda.

One focus of the agenda was Generation Y, often referred to as the Millennials; those born between 1977 and 1995. Keep in mind, for the first time in our nation’s history, there are actually four generations in the workforce. In addition to Generation Y, there’s Generation X (1965-1976); my generation, commonly called the Baby Boomers (1946-1964); and the Traditionalists (pre-1946).

Virtually every day, you can come across someone from each of the various age groups in the workplace. The crowded demographics make it easy to see why it’s so difficult for high school age kids to find summer employment.

The financial services industry needs to pay more attention to Generation Y. After all, there are 80 million people in Generation Y, virtually the same number as the Baby Boomers. Like the Boomers, Generation Y is going to need financial advisers to guide them through the complexities of the investment world.

Every generation has a defining moment. For Baby Boomers, it was the assassination of JFK. It appears that 9/11 will be the defining moment for Generation Y. And while Generation Y will have more college graduates than any generation, they will also have more college debt. Far more.

The financial services field is a graying field. It’s in need of Generation Y advisers to help their peers with the financial decisions they need to make throughout their lifetimes. As Baby Boomer advisers, my generation needs to train, educate and eventually pass the torch on to the younger advisers. It’s beginning to happen and I’m confident that Generation Y will understand the importance of financial issues. I’m somewhat embarrassed, nonetheless, that they’ll need to tackle some financial issues that Baby Boomers are currently kicking down the road.

Finally, I have to say that our keynote speaker, Condoleezza Rice, is one of the brightest people I’ve ever encountered. From her tenure as Secretary of State she has a great understanding of the many hot spots throughout the world.

Today, besides teaching, she also serves on the NCAA college football playoff selection committee where she was in charge of evaluating our own Big Ten Conference. Whatever your politics may be, there’s no questioning her considerable knowledge. Her comments and opinions were always respectful; a rare trait in today’s political environment.

Summarizing, the classroom information was great and I think perhaps this should be the “discussion of or with my peers.” Our featured speaker spent years trying to make the world a safer place, and we spent a fair amount of time trying to get our arms around Generation Y and their finances.

Our world will always need quality people like Condoleezza Rice. People who try to make the world a better place for the generations to come, each of which will need some sort of financial advice. I believe that Generation Y is no exception and I have every confidence that they are up to the challenges that lie ahead.

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