Just like the Great Depression shaped the financial mindset of our grandparents and great grand-parents, so the Great Recession right now is doing a similar thing to teens and twentysomethings.
They don't trust banks, don't plan to invest in the stock market, they don't even want to get insurance. Microsoft funded a study done by KRC Research that surveyed 500 "Milennials" ages 18 to 29 about their take on personal finance.
Their trust in the U.S. government and the financial markets are shot but unlike their parents, who usually have some experience with investing in stocks, mutual funds and retirement plans, this younger generation doesn't want to touch those with a 10-foot pole.
Sixty-seven percent say it's unlikely they'll invest in the stock market. Half of them say they don't intend to fund a 401(k) or other retirement fund. Forty-five percent will never purchase an insurance policy. And mirroring the general antipathy towards banks right now, 22% said they'll never open a banking account, even if it's FDIC-guaranteed.
What does that mean for the American economy? Maybe it's too soon to tell, as we're almost two years into the recession. If the economy rebounds, Americans could turn back from being savers into their old role of being spend-happy "consumers."
But perhaps Gen Y will mirror their Great Depression forefathers and take on lifelong habits of watching every penny and saving every dime -- but will they literally sock money under their mattresses?
There were a few financial institutions they liked more than others. On a trust level, the surveyed Millenials had a favorable opinion of community banks and credit unions.
At the bottom of the scale were independent brokerage firms, Wall Street investment banks and hedge funds. That may mean in the future that Gen Y will choose to spread their funds around only at the local and regional levels, leaving Wall Street with fewer dollars to play with on the market.
However Gen Y intends to invest its money, there's one survey fact I think won't change in the long run: When asked which entity they trusted most for financial advice, 81% percent of Millenials chose their parents as the best source (friends were second).
So Mom and Dad, if you ever despaired of your kids being able to handle money wisely, perhaps now is the best time to have that money talk.
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