Gen Y who?: how a new generation (supposedly) approaches finance differently

An article from about Generation Y recently caught my eye.  Laden with lists and statistics (which I am a sucker for) and dropping lines like “For Gen Yers, tattoos are common: 40% have at least one. 18% have six or more,” I couldn’t resist reading through.  Plus, I’m a Gen Yer myself, so naturally I’m interested to hear what someone else has to say about who I am.  While a lot of what I found in the article wasn’t surprising, I was surprised by (and even doubted) some of the other generalizations that were stated.  Here’s a list of statements from this article that intrigued me most:

1.  “Millennials have different expectations about their jobs and careers than earlier generations. They expect work to be fun and meaningful. Few will stick with a job they dislike just for a paycheck.”

I wholeheartedly agree that Gen Yers “expect work to be fun and meaningful” at least some point in their lives.  But I have a hard time believing that all, or even most, Gen Yers are really enjoying their jobsMore than half of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs, and I sincerely doubt that this generation is any different.  The younger crowd may even be more disillusioned by the working world.  Those who are lucky enough to have a job may simply be sticking with it just for a paycheck.  While I think the spirit of the question is sound, I don’t see widespread action by Gen Y to find “fun and meaningful” careers.

2.  “For now, [Gen Yers are] less acquisitive than their Baby Boomer parents, steering away from what they see as conspicuous consumption.”

I’m curious about what stats are considered here.  From many indicators, credit card debt is still running rampant, even in younger generations.  I guess if we’re talking in relative terms, Baby Boomers might just have much larger debts.  But I think this statement implies a sense of frugality that may not exist on a large scale for Gen Y.

3.  “Millennials are more likely to buy based on peer recommendations. And they’re a bit more willing than older shoppers to pay higher prices to protect the environment.”

I have no arguments with this one, as it is definitely true in my life.  I live and die by the customer reviews.  I also happily seek out green-friendly products.  While there are certainly varying levels of devotion to this statement, it is most likely a noticeable generational difference.

4.  “Millennials are more risk averse than previous generations were at the same age. About half of their nest eggs are in bonds, money market accounts or cash.”

I’d like to see what statistics there are to back this up.  First of all, how much of a “nest egg” do Gen Yers have?  Second of all, are they sticking to bonds and cash because it’s safer or for another reason?  Perhaps they have no clue how to invest their money.  Or maybe they feel they don’t have enough to get started.  In fairness, the article points out that there hasn’t been a lot for Gen Y to be excited about as far as the stock market and other investments go in recent years.  But, if Gen Yers are intelligent and really in touch with their investments and nest eggs as the article implies, it seems hard to believe that they’d simply be content to avoid investments that have historically done well over long periods of time.

5.  “…time is more valued than money. Millennials want flexible schedules and may prefer additional vacation days to cash bonuses.”

I really like where the article is going with this one.  I most certainly agree that I, and many others, do want this.  But the real question is: are Gen Yers actually getting flexible schedules and more time from their careers? This point represents a real crossroad where desire meet reality.  Perhaps this statement indicates an increasing trend of workers that feel this way, but I’m skeptical that it’s anywhere near a reality for all at the moment.

Overall, I think this article brings up a lot of interesting desires and traits that Gen Yers (supposedly) possess.  What I’m really interested in is how successful Gen Yers will be at achieving several ideals that go against a lot of what previous generations valued and strived for.  This is what I think the goals of Gen Y should be:

1. Work less for others and more for yourself.
2. Value time more than simply money.
3. Find something you love to do for a career; if you don’t love it, don’t do it.

I certainly hope Gen Y is the generation where we don’t have to make sacrifices like working 50+ hour weeks instead of spending time with our family or holding out on hopes and dreams by staying with “safe” jobs instead.  But to change that, Gen Yers need to overcome a plethora of conventions and fear that have existed for decades.  Nonetheless, I, and hopefully many other Gen Yers out there, are ready to show Baby Boomers how to really live life.