Overcoming financial and investment fears in the millennial generation seems to be an uphill battle, with female millennials still at the bottom.
According to the Pew Research Center, anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23-38 in 2019) is considered a millennial. Jim Woods, a finance guru with trading services such as Bullseye Stock Trader and Successful Investing, further investigated this generous population segment and reported that millennials currently are roughly 35% of the labor force, and by 2030 are expected to make up 75% of the workforce.
Michelle Connell, a certified financial analyst (CFA) and an adjunct finance professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, said that for women, there is a multitude of factors that have led to this fear of finance among millennial women. The first factor is the lack of professional women in the finance industry. She said that there are actually fewer women in institutional money management now than there were 20 years ago.
“At the lower end of the investment career spectrum, only 15% of financial advisors are females. (Those would be the individuals that you see in a brokerage firm.) If you don’t see someone like yourself, you’re not going to believe it’s possible!”
Overcoming Financial and Investment Fears in the Millennial Generation Amid Debt
Connell brought up college debt as a second factor and said that it often becomes an overwhelming and overriding driver in financial decisions. Third, she said that the past is a source of fear for female millennials and millennials in general. She said that most millennials are old enough to remember the 2007 mortgage crisis and that it likely added a general distrust of financial institutions to the millennial mindset.
They watched how their parents struggled and perhaps lived with financial uncertainty about their “jobs and/or their homes,” Connell said.
Connell continued that she first noticed this unsettling trend of financial fear and disinterest over five years ago when she became an adjunct finance professor at UT.
Overcoming Financial and Investment Fears in the Millennial Generation Among Females
“The vast majority of the female students in my classes made it clear that they didn’t need to understand finance and investments, they were only interested in getting through the class!
“I would tell them that there is a 90% chance that as a female at some point in their life they would be responsible for their family’s finances — through a divorce, a death, or a disability. My statistic did not change their minds!”
According to a CNBC article published in 2019, only 54% of millennial women reported feeling in control of their finances, versus 76% of men of the same generation. Moreover, the article found that only about 48% of millennial women reported having three months’ worth of emergency savings, compared to the men of that generation, with 70% of them reporting that they did.
Overcoming Financial and Investment Fears Among Educated Millennial Women
In a 2019 study done by Pew Research Center, it was found that among millennials, women are outpacing men in college completion. In 2018, a survey showed that at least 43% of female millennials completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, versus 36% of millennial men.
Even with many millennial women being highly educated, Connell said that many of her clients would prefer to have someone else make the decisions regarding their finances.
“Even when they’re married and highly educated, more often than not they will defer to their husband. Getting a female to be part of the conversation is frequently a losing battle!”
Men Tackle Overcoming Financial and Investment Fears in the Millennial Generation
While female millennials seem to be shying away from finance, Connell said that the trend does not carry over into the male millennial segment. She reported that this year, all of her students entering the higher-level financial classes are males.
“In general, women are more focused on the downside loss potential of an investment, whereas men are focused on the upside. Rice University released a study that concluded that given the same belief regarding their capability, a female investor will take less risk than a male investor.”
Connell shared her advice for hesitant first-time investors and said that following investment news is no different than following any other type of news on social media.
Overcoming Financial and Investment Fears Among Millennial Females Who Favor Funds
“While men seem enamored with chasing individual stocks, I think women are better served by investing in mutual funds. That way their investment is less volatile. Then, I would suggest women look at the top two-to-three stocks within the mutual fund that they own. Start tracking these companies and their quarterly financial reports. One will quickly realize that investing is not rocket science! It’s like following any other news on social media. However, this news can make you money!”
Her finance and social media correlation proves sound, as a survey conducted by E*Trade in 2020 found that three out of four millennials said investing and trading apps positively influenced the way they handle investments and that two out of three millennials surveyed use an investing app once a week or more.
Overcoming Financial and Investment Fears in the Millennial Cohort
Ultimately, when it comes to handling fear, Connell said that the best way to overcome it is to become friends with it. Her head-on approach to tackling both finance and fear stems from her past financial struggles. Living in a one-parent household, at the age of 15, Connell began working at a McDonald’s in inner-city Seattle to help provide for her family.
“All my wages went to my family. I vowed at that time to obtain an education and understand finance,” Connell said.
Her suggestions for befriending financial fears include obtaining at least a minimal level of investment literacy, watching business networks on a regular basis and reading the main headlines for Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, both of which have accessible headlines online with no subscription necessary.
Finally, the CFA and high-ranking professor advised, “When all else fails, give yourself the wake-up call of understanding that having no investments will lead to a life of financial insecurity and probably a lack of retirement.”
Emily Mirabelli is an editorial staffer with Eagle Financial Publications who writes for www.stockinvestor.com.